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Surveillance in Australia

Written By: - Date published: 8:35 am, September 28th, 2014 - 51 comments
Categories: australian politics, Spying - Tags: , ,

Latest developments in Australia are relevant in the context of the recent focus on surveillance in NZ.

The entire Australian web can be monitored

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 … with bipartisan support from Labor. …

Anyone – including journalists, whistleblowers and bloggers – who “recklessly” discloses “information … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation” faces up to 10 years’ jail. Any operation can be declared “special” by an authorised Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officer. …

Many, including lawyers and academics, have said they fear the agency will abuse this power. … They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor. The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer. …

What are the odds that the Nats will pass similar laws here during their current term?

51 comments on “Surveillance in Australia”

  1. Jay 1

    This is all a load of cobblers. While we waste our time and money worrying and writing about this we are ignoring actual issues. My reasons for thinking it’s rubbish are as follows:

    1. There are insufficient staff and resources to look at the communication data of law abiding kiwis. In fact, there are insufficient staff and resources to look at the communication data of criminals in nz as it is, never mind reading your emails to ascertain your political views. Seriously, don’t flatter yourself. Noone cares.

    2. Even if there were sufficient staff and resources to trawl though the data, there are insufficient staff and resources to follow any more than a tiny tiny fraction of it up. It’s a big job and takes a lot of time and resources, and it’s easy to quickly get snowed under.

    3. There are so many bigger fish to fry that are already slipping through the cracks, literally no one cares if you’re shagging your neighbour, using drugs, committing benefit fraud, low level dealing, property crime etc etc. Believe me if you saw how much wasn’t getting done you’d want an enquiry to be carried out. Of course we would need to increase our police tenfold to get anywhere near it, but that would be a police state right?

    4. If anyone was actually trawling through all our emails, don’t you think we’d see more child porn cases brought? If they wanted to use illicitly obtained information, they would start with abhorrent crimes such as these. They don’t, because they can’t and don’t use our spy powers for this kind of thing, even though I bet they’d love to.

    5. With the state of the world the way it is, we actually need these powers. In fighting them we just play into the hands of terrorists, who are beheading each other at far greater rates than they are us infidels. These guys are mad and we need powers to deal with them

    6. Stop being paranoid. The government doesn’t care about your private life, not only because they have no reason to, but also because they don’t have the resources to even if they did care. To me it’s like cannabis law reform, but even less of an issue. Smoking dope in private virtually already is legal, people are rarely even charged with possession nowadays and noone actually cares if you smoke dope. It’s a non-issue that needs to be put to one side. Just like all this spying hysteria.

    The time spent debating this would be far better spent working at a charity or giving our time to make lunches for all the poor kids who don’t know or have any reason to care about the bloody gcsb.

    • You don’t understand how it works. If it can be collected, it can be mined. The Snowden documents explain how it works through analysis of metadata. We aren’t talking just about targeting people who are already under suspicion, but the trawling of metadata looking for suspicious “patterns”.

      The government doesn’t care about your private life.

      The same government that more or less employed Cameron Slater to smear its opponents, in many cases by delving into their private life and using it as leverage against them?


    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      You just don’t get it, do you?

      The government doesn’t care about your private life until you do something that brings you to their attention. Like, oh, be the leader of the opposition, or “that feral bitch who screams at me in meetings”, or advocate for Maui’s Dolphin.

      There’s a reason lawyers oppose these laws. I expect it’s because they’re all communists, eh.

    • Molly 1.3

      You really haven’t thought this through have you?

      Your comments are unrelated to any of the concerns that were given by the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society and the Privacy Commission during the law changes for the GCSB and TICS legislation.

      You should go and read them, and the follow it up with watching the Youtube of the Moment of Truth event.

      It is not just our government that has access, it is also unelected (ie not NZ) governments (and their spies) from the US, the UK, Australia and Canada.

      Legislation is not being rewritten to address crime (aka child porn) – it is to protect corporate interest – that is right – (commercial advantage) money.

      (Was going to rewrite a previous comment but have cut and pasted instead.)

      “What makes NZ more likely to be a location for an act of terror?

      – Primarily acting as a stooge for the US which has committed long and sustained acts of terror against sovereign states for immoral and illegitimate reasons,
      – spying on other sovereign states that we are not in conflict with and using our location and access to allow others to do so;
      – sending our defence forces in at the request of the US despite there being no credible intelligence that indicates this approach will improve the living conditions of those countrymen or women. In fact, historical evidence shows that it usually results with deterioration of living conditions and increases the likelihood of extremist groups taking power;
      – using intelligence systems to spy on and target those who disagree with the government of the time, and use intimidation techniques to get them to change behaviours – even if they are legitimate and peaceful. When you remove the right to disagree by legitimate and peaceful means, you increase the likelihood that desperation will result in ramping up actions.

      In essence, failing to act like a sovereign state that upholds values such as human rights for all, and avoidance of unnecessary or ineffective conflict – is what is going to make us vulnerable to acts of terrorism.”

      We don’t presently need anti-terrorism policy, but this government is doing its best to ensure that everyone thinks that we do – and acts in such a way as to invite it.

    • Colonial Viper 1.4

      This is all a load of cobblers. While we waste our time and money worrying and writing about this we are ignoring actual issues. My reasons for thinking it’s rubbish are as follows:

      Odd that you would attack people critical of the creation of a turnkey security and surveillance state, by using the excuse that ‘it’s no big deal and can’t really be done properly anyway’.

      Without even asking yourself why the anglo-saxon power elite have been working consistently over the last 10 years, in secret, across multiple countries, using hundreds of billions of dollars, to build the resources, facilities and expertise to do just such a thing.

    • Naki man 1.5

      Great post Jay, the crims are getting worried. Law abiding people have nothing to fear.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.5.1


        John Key introduces Stalinism accompanied by rapt applause.

        • Naki man

          The Australians spy on terrorists to keep their people safe and the paranoid crims are sweating like a rapist.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            You poor sap, crims get caught by police work, not by spooks. Do you honestly not understand that crims evolve, like say, the Odgers/Collins gang?

            • Colonial Viper

              Spooks are supposed to keep track of enemies of the state. At this rate however, they are treating every single citizen, MP, judge, business leaders, doctor, lawyer, police officer, mayor as a potential enemy of the state.

            • Naki man

              The police bug phones cars etc.
              That is why you poor saps are shitting.

              • Colonial Viper

                Do pay attention, you’re really not that smart unless you focus. Tapping a phone line under court warrant for a specific and limited investigation is *not* what we are talking about here.

                We’re talking about mass surveillance of a whole society and all its civil and societal leaders by unaccountable local and foreign powers. This signals the end of any true democracy – as no democracy can survive the end of civil rights and privacy. What we will get now is what we see in the USA – a pretence of a managed democracy via a corporate state.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Nappy Man, your mind is a very revealing toilet.

    • Lan 1.6

      They are called search engines, databases and AI (artificial intelligence). Your confidence about “big data” is misplaced.

    • Mick McCrohon 1.7

      Your comment makes very little sense ?

      A single example …from 5. “In fighting them we just play into the hands of terrorists, who are beheading each other at far greater rates than they are us infidels.”
      then from 6. “Stop being paranoid.”

      • Colonial Viper 1.7.1

        Gosh you’re not supposed to think with a critical mind, just to swallow what they are feeding us without question.

  2. Richard Christie 2

    We’ll know an announcement for a new law will be just around the corner right after we get news of a SWAT team bust of a terrorist cell in NZ. This will be pasted all over the front page of Cameron Slater’s Drop Boxthe NZ Herald along with calls for ptrotection.

  3. mpledger 3

    We might not have the resources now but that doesn’t mean we might not at some point in the future. If we pass the law now we’ll never know when it does become feasible, it will happen silently.

    And anyway, with America surveilling 300,000,000 people in their own country what is it to them to poke through 4,000,000 people’s communications in their down time. I don’t know what their laws are on surveilling non-US citizens, I would guess it’s fair game to them.

    Since so much of our internet use goes through America, even internal NZ stuff can bounce up to America and back, a lot of it is probably captured already.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Please try and get it through your head that ubiquitous surveillance will be used against you if and when you become a person of interest, by starting a community group that opposes fossil fuel extraction, for example, or being active in progressive politics, or being a National Party MP who makes private statements criticising Judith Collins.

      You have no idea, yet, what it’s like to live in a surveillance society.

      • halfcrown 3.1.1

        But, but we have had a lot of right wing dicks on here telling us “nothing to hide ,nothing to fear.” Yeah right.

        Might have to go back to the good old “word of mouth”

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          John Banks famously used that phrase ‘ nothing to fear , nothing to hide’

          But then he DIDNT testify in the witness box at his own trial as of course he had plenty to hide.
          And probably feared his lies at a previous court case coming back to bite him in the honesty bum.
          Its not really secret surveillance, but goes to show how breaking the law happens

  4. tc 4

    Labor under shorten have checked out, the Rudd/gillard saga has left it rather an empty vessel.

    There is no opposition looking out for joe public who will be alongside US troops in greater numbers soon, no debates, no public discourse just where do we sign up Tony.

    With PUP holding sway in the senate Oz is in for some intersting times.

    • The Al1en 4.1

      “Labor under shorten have checked out, the Rudd/gillard saga has left it rather an empty vessel.”

      http://www.roymorgan.com/morganpoll Morgan Poll – September 13/14 & 20/21, 2014

      Two Party Preferred:
      ALP 54.5% up 0.5%
      L-NP 45.5% down 0.5%

      Voting Intention:
      ALP 37.5
      L-NP 38.5
      Greens 12
      Ind 12

      • tc 4.1.1

        I base my comments on the actions of its MPs, no surprise they poll better than two faces tony after the many broken pledges.

        But they aint calling the shots just nodding and signing off on tonys.

        • Colonial Viper

          Yes, the Labor Party supported this utter annihilation of Australian democracy, and the handing over of the reigns of power to a small technocratic elite.

  5. Jay 6

    You are all seriously paranoid. We are already using mass surveillance on each other with our cellphones, we are ourselves already the real big brother and it will only get worse and worse, anyone care to complain about that? As if anyone aside from a megalomaniac is going to enact laws and carry out activities that will have a major negative impact on ordinary people, do you think Mr Key wants his friends and family subject to anything that will be detrimental to them anymore than you do? And don’t give me any conspiracy theories either. People like greenwald and Snowden are nothing but traiters, they exposed the government methods that have provided our enemies with information, forcing the government to change their methods and reducing their effectiveness. There were many many dissenters when we went to war in 1939, didn’t history show them up as a pack of fools. As for monitoring your activity if you are an activist, I can only repeat once again. Don’t flatter yourself.

    I trust John Key or whoever is the PM to do their incredibly important job without me poking my nose into it, and meanwhile I’ll just get on with mine, as should all of you get on with yours. Honestly this is all really whacky.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.1

      If it’s whacky then why waste time commenting?

      Everyone commenting on this site could reasonably expect to be monitored as an activist and their electronic footprint searched for National Security reasons. Likewise those who attend regular protest marches. But there is nothing wrong with wanting some kind of oversight to the whole process – in fact it would be prudent to have in place to avoid misuse. The real problem is that it isn’t in place.

      I don’t object to monitoring, just the oversight issue and the weird veil of secrecy from the public about the level of surveillance being put in place.

    • Dialey 6.2

      All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing

    • RedLogix 6.3

      I trust John Key or whoever is the PM to do their incredibly important job

      Definition of naivety. You have no idea who might become PM in the future.

      All your arguments boil down to the old “if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about” line.

      Which completely ignores the fact that you don’t get to define ‘wrong’. Someone else does. A faceless someone you have no way of holding to account.

      It is a deep irony of course that it is the Left that has been responsible for the first trial runs of ubiquitous surveillance societies – the Soviets, the KGB and Stasi with their networks of political commissars and informers, that absent much technology got pretty close to a panoptican.

      And if you didn’t rock the boat, if you remained loyal in thought, word and deed to the authorities you didn’t have to worry. Outwardly the ordinary daily life in the USSR was reasonably civilised and orderly. But the people hated it.

      So how strange it is now to find the so-called liberal, freedom-loving, personal rights advocating, capitalist Right – now insisting on making exactly the same mistake their old enemy the Communists made before them.

      Only on a much grander scale.

      • Tom Jackson 6.3.2

        I remember being told by right wing teachers at high school that the reason we should oppose communism was that no-one should have to live in a society like East Germany.

        So how strange it is now to find the so-called liberal, freedom-loving, personal rights advocating, capitalist Right – now insisting on making exactly the same mistake their old enemy the Communists made before them.

        It extends much further than surveillance. The dominance of IT in capitalism means that we essentially live in a planned economy (or at least an economy where any attempt at genuine risk on a significant scale is ruthlessly stamped out at light speed by stock trading algorithms). It’s why nobody can create truly innovative products: no such product could ever survive modern market research.

      • Murray Olsen 6.3.3

        RL, we don’t have to worry about who might be PM in the future. John Key is already bad enough. Even when the watchers do break the law, he legalises their actions. I know from personal experience what agribusiness and fossil fuel companies have done in some other parts of the world. Key is BFF with this guys and I have seen basically no evidence of any ethical handbrake on his actions. When the shit hits the fan, government is supposed to protect us. This one won’t.

    • Colonial Viper 6.4

      Jay – why are you not concerned about the loss of the civil liberties and privacy which is the bedrock for a true democracy? Why are you ignoring the now many examples internationally of how these surveillance powers have been misused?

      Why are you so scared of asking questions of the people in power, the people who want to know everything about you while they will put you in jail for wanting to know anything about them.

      Does that strike you as fair? Or does that strike you as authoritarian?

    • You are all seriously paranoid.

      You just don’t get it.

      Hardly anyone disagrees that the state should have the power, when presented with probable cause, and with a judicial warrant (secret or no), to put individual citizens or groups under surveillance. It’s a significant power, but it is intrinsically limited to individuals and groups.

      What you are defending is a digital panopticon that monitors the behaviour of everybody as a pre-emptive measure. The number of people who can be trusted with such power is zero. None of this is the same as companies collecting data, because they don’t have the power of the state and they don’t have access to everything.

      Nobody has a right to a digital panopticon, because nobody can be trusted with it.

      As for activists, we already know that they have been put under illegal surveillance.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 6.5.1

        When the SIS was found illegally breaking into house occupied by Aziz Choudry in Christchurch July 1996 ( he was merely a GATT activist , now called World Trade Organisation WTO)

        The law was changed to allow them to break into homes.

        When the GCSB was found out to be illegally having computer surveillance on Kim Dotcom, the law was changed to allow them to spy on NZ citizens.

        Both these situations are not ones you would consider where the public or institutions of state are in dire peril.

        An interesting sideline to Choudry case, we never really knew why they broke into his house, but the person who ‘caught them in the act’ faced consequences from the state.

        David Small was the person who actually caught the SIS agents breaking into Aziz’s house. It was he who took down the vital clue of their numberplate (which led to the SIS; the agents have never been named) and reported it to the police – who waved the agents on their way. In the most sinister feature of the whole episode, the police raided the homes of both Aziz and David Small, looking for “bombmaking equipment”, shortly after the foiled SIS break in. A hoax bomb had been left at the Christchurch City Council building. This mysterious episode has never been explained (a remarkably similar hoax bomb disrupted Auckland Airport when it was inadvertently left behind there during a security exercise prior to the 1999 APEC Leaders’ Summit. Coincidence, surely?).

        Even if you ‘have nothing to hide’ but speak up or note something unusual and its the state secret services, you will face consequences.

        I wonder if David Smalls life since then had other banana skins placed in his way

    • Yoyo 6.6

      Great posts.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.7

      So, no substantive response to the points raised, no inkling why the Law Society is in bed with communists, just a bunch of worthless personal opinions from someone doing their best impression of an airhead.

    • framu 6.8

      ” As for monitoring your activity if you are an activist,”

      which is a highly regular activity – far higher than monitoring terrorists – for all of the western intelligence forces

      this isnt a conspiracy either – they happily admit it

      your being staggeringly stupid jay

      • Rolf 6.8.1

        Could I kindly remind everyone of something out of the history.

        “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”

        Minted by the propagandaministerium in Nazi Germany. We know the result.

        I don’t think we really what that back, but that is where we are heading just now.

  6. But conspiring against their own citizens? Neh, never! They wouldn’t do that would they?

  7. Chooky 8

    As usual Wallace Chapman’s programe is very relevant …Media Watch and Wayne Brittenden and Chapman …on Australian anti terrorist raids…and achieving peace by peaceful means


    and this


  8. Rolf 10

    This is interesting for us that experienced the Third Reich. It is almost a carbon copy of the “security measures” Hitler put in place in the 1930s, and we know how those were used. The difference today is the Internet, and as we know, it is still possible to publish anonymously on the web, just don’t try it if you don’t know what you are doing. We also know that both Snowden and Assange were given political asylum to protect them from just these sorts of actions. Make good use of publishers and people located in safe areas, where they can not be captured, harassed or tortured. Leak the information to them – safely.

  9. It is not just the spying that should scare the bejeezus out of people with laws that enable access to our privacy and computers in any shape or form.

    They can also put stuff on your computer, change email, and do other things to change the content of your computer. There have already been reported cases of people finding photo’s of pornographic and pedophile nature on their computers after they had been separated from their computers. Activists and citizen journalists have received emails promising material they could use in their articles only to find that these emails where rigged to download pedophile photos on to their computers.

    If you are stupid enough to believe the “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” you have never been in a county where the entire citizenry is terrified because any day there could be a knock on the door of the secret police. More often than not the evidence against people was fabricated by the secret police themselves in countries such as Czechoslovakia or East Germany. Just imagine if someone unbeknownst to you puts damaging material on your computer or cell phone to set you up. There is no end what these bastards could get up to if you have something they want or if you speak out against the elite.

    Why put up with dissent if you can get people out of the way with a little blackmail or the threat of prison time for having objectionable material on their computer? Who is going to believe them when they say they didn’t put in on their computers in the first place!

    • greywarbler 11.1

      @ travellerev
      Frightening and worrying. F&W for short. I fear that we will have reason to use this term a lot – might as well get a handy acronym ready for the situations.

  10. greywarbler 12

    I’m reading an Agatha Christie Passenger to Frankfurt. She put a lot of time and thought into devising a story of a worldwide plot to harness young idealists with a Nazi-style fervency using big amounts of money siphoned here and there.

    There is an older woman who has made pots from mining and every other activity who is behind it. She is in Bavaria, though, not Australia, and her name is Charlotte Krapp and she has inherited money from her father’s Krapp yards in Germany!

    This was published in 1970 and has caught many of the themes around today. It is very involved in intelligence and false identities. It ends up with the wife of a USA ambassador being the centre of the movement.

  11. Jones 13

    “What are the odds that the Nats will pass similar laws here during their current term?”

    Perhaps this is the something special that NZ is on the verge of?

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