Category: Telecommunications

Here we go again…. Politics, Impartiality and the ABC

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Over the past 24 hours, there’s been quite a stir within the Australian media about a series of comments that Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently made on the Sydney radio program of 2GB’s controversial morning shock jock, Ray Hadley.  Utilising parts of the interview to pander to some of his more vocal supporters (and ABC critics) within the Coalition partyroom and the Liberal heartland of Sydney, Mr Abbott decided to make a few unwarranted comments about the levels of patriotism, political bias, value and accuracy found within the ABC, given some of the political stories that have been run by the public broadcaster over the past few months.

Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB's Ray Hadley.  Photo courtesy of ABC News.
Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB’s Ray Hadley. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

Now while such comments would obviously partially be the result of Mr Abbott and his Coalition colleagues being generally unhappy with the ABC’s portrayal of intelligence related stories and the airing of asylum seeker claims of abuse over recent weeks (which Scott Morrison has ineptly managed due to his steadfast refusal to provide transparent immigration information and video content to the Australian public which would refute such claims), it’s not as if the ABC hasn’t been giving away  “Free Kicks” to their critics of late.  As evidenced by the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage earlier this month, the drunken actions of a few ABC journalists, comedians and presenters can be all the mud that’s needed in order to make it appear that a public broadcaster is completely and utterly out of control when attached to other grievances.

But are claims that the ABC is biased, unpatriotic, under-regulated and un-representative of Australian society valid, or are they simply just an obvious level of pandering to a small but vocal ideological element within the Liberal partyroom and ideological base, which would like to see the ABC privatised?  Furthermore, do such claims really stack up when you take into consideration that of the 19 former ABC empolyees that had gone on to become politicians as of a Senate Estimates inquiry into the issue on the 23rd of May 2007, that nine had joined the Coalition, while the remainder had joined Labor?

Well, the devil is in the details in regards to those particular questions.

Now not counting the digital radio networks, the ABC has 60 Local Radio stations and 4 national radio networks within its possession at this time, not to mention four nationally broadcast digital television networks.  From music through to sport, arts culture, agriculture, law, mining, religion, history and science amongst others, the ABC has a wealth of units and a broad church of staff, which help them to fulfill their government mandated charter. Needless to say, all of these facilities provide a massive amount of content on a daily basis to all elements of Australian society, most of which statistics would show, isn’t of a political nature.

Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest's  Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.
Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest’s Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.

In order to prove that point, I’m going to put the spotlight on the staff and facilities of the first radio station that I interned with a number of years ago, ABC New England Northwest, which is nestled up in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Northern New South Wales.  A funky and innovative group of people, these journalists highlight the diversity, professionalism and patriotism which is found across the ABC on a daily basis.

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Missing the story – Indonesia’s been asking for and using “Phone Tapping” technology for years

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Over the past few days I’ve been getting rather bemused by the phone tapping scandal that’s been hiting the Australian and Indonesian Governments.  However the events surrounding this scandal haven’t surprised me anywhere near as much as some of the comments that have been made about it.  Namely, that Indonesia didn’t have a clue that Australia was tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens.  This is closely followed by some of the seriously deficient research that parts of the Australian and Indonesian media have conducted into this story, since it first broke. The context of a story often provides its key, and in all honesty that’s what I feel has missing from this entire scandal so far.

Now as anyone who follows South East Asian current affairs and politics closely would know, Indonesia’s Detachment 88 has been tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens for ages.  Given that none of the tapped phones on the list provided by the Australian Signals Directorate to the other “5 Eyes” members were secure models, it’s no surprise at all that these phones were tapped.  As a Reuters article from 2010 shows, phone tapping technology and expertise are resources that the Indonesians have requested and received from Australia, the US, France and the UK throughout most of the period since the 2002 Bali Bombings.

Reuters:

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment, but a U.S. government document showed the unit had received technical support, training and equipment under the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2003.

An Indonesian official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, confirmed the unit got Australian and U.S. help in advanced wiretapping technology, and also some British and French aid.

Indonesia and the United States are likely to discuss further security cooperation during Obama’s visit. Washington has been considering whether to lift a ban on military training for Indonesia’s notorious special forces unit, known as Kopassus.

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The Turnbulls and the shares in Leighton Holdings’ parent company, Hochtief AG……

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.
Photo courtesy of ABC News and ABC 7.30 - 9/4/13
Photo courtesy of ABC News and ABC 7.30 – 9/4/13

With the news that Leighton Holdings is under a major Federal investigation over approximately $50 million worth of kickbacks and other forms of corruption within Indonesia and the Middle East, some serious questions need to be asked of The Honourable Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, in relation to their involvement with that particular company over the past few years.

As I reported earlier this year, Mr and Mrs Turnbull have previously invested in Hochtief AG (HOTG.DE), which is the majority (55%) shareholder  of Leighton Holdings. These shares were reportedly sold in February 2012 by The Turnbulls, about roughly the time that corruption allegations at Leighton Holdings first started coming to light.  Coincidentally, the sale of these shares wasn’t reported by Mr Turnbull to the House of Representatives Pecuniary Interests Register, which sitting MPs and their immediate family are required to report changes in their financial interests to, within a 28 day period.  Strangely enough, Mr Turnbull let this “administrative error” lie for close to 18 months, until I pressured him on his family’s investments in the NBN contractor and its $3.1 Billion involvement in the project earlier this year. Over the course of next five months after the alleged sale, Hochtief AG proceeded to loose over a third of its value on the German Xetra stock exchange, according to Reuters.

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 10.58.39 PM
Screenshot of Mr Turnbull’s Pecuniary Interest Statement for the 43rd Parliament – 3rd of June 2013 submission

Needless to say, given how business-savvy the entire Turnbull family have been over the past few decades, it struck me at the time I wrote my previous articles as being rather strange that they would suddenly want to divest themselves of their shares in this company, just as they were starting to be awarded a series of major infrastructure projects via their majority-owned local subsidiary.  Due to the events of this morning and the past week however, I’ve now got more questions than answers in relation to the sale of these shares than what I had previously.

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Albanese admitted his leading role in the deposing of Gillard on Election Night…..

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Earlier today, the following exchange between Barrie Cassidy and The Hon. Anthony Albanese took place about loyalty on the ABC’s Insiders program, in relation to The Hon. Kevin Rudd and the overthrow of Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier this year.  This statement by Mr Albanese is in stark contrast to his comments on the night of the 2013 Federal Election, about Former Prime Minister Gillard’s disposal back in June.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Further on the question of loyalty, can you say hand on heart you knew nothing of the destabilisation and the undermining that was going on against Julia Gillard?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course not. Everyone knew about it Barrie, it was in the paper.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Yes but you knew beyond what was written in the paper and you knew who was doing the undermining?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Everyone knew what was going on, Barrie, everyone knew it. The question is do you involve yourself in it? And certainly I didn’t. I was of the view, I was of the view very strongly, that we should concentrate on taking up the challenge to the opposition.

And I think now what we need to do is actually look to the future. We need to draw a line in the sand under this and we need to unite and move forward with whoever is the leader Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, but you say you knew it was going on. You heard talk of the cardinals, the group that called themselves the cardinals, Kim Carr, Joel Fitzgibbon and Richard Marles, that was Rudd’s core group of supporters. Why didn’t you go to them at some point and say “This has to stop”?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, the fact is, going over history, everyone knew this was going on. What my job was, each and every day, Barrie, I was leader of the house, minister for infrastructure and transport, minister for regional Australia and local government. I frankly, Barrie, had enough on my plate arguing against our political opponents. That was what I concentrated on each and every day.

What we need to do is to make sure that every member of the caucus moving forward does just that, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: You could have done more surely. And the suspicion is you didn’t want to because, as Pam Williams wrote in the Financial Review, that you were a secret cardinal. What do you say to that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, that’s just not the case. Pam Williams didn’t bother to speak to me about any of those articles.

Now this is a particularly interesting series of commentss by Mr Albanese, given that at the Cyprus Club in Stanmore on Election Night he confirmed off-the-cuff on stage and on camera, that he had purposefully been undermining former Prime Minister Gillard in the weeks and months prior to her removal from the ALP Leadership only a couple of months ago. Needless to say, the campaign to replace Prime Minister Gillard earlier this year was anything but positive, according to Mr Albanese.

Mr Albanese: One of the lessons the Labor Party needs to learn and needs to show in the coming weeks, days and weeks, is that when we talk about ourselves, people switch off. We need to talk about Australians and what is of interest to them. And when we are not united, when we are not united, we will be punished for it.

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The Turnbulls and an investment in the NBN…..

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

If there’s one thing that never ceases to amaze me, it’s that both state and federal politicians don’t think that people check their pecuniary interests, policy statements and voting records, then contrast them against the business interests that said politicians and their families hold.

Take The Honourable Shadow Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, for example.

Photo courtesy of ABC News and ABC 7.30 - 9/4/13
Photo courtesy of ABC News and ABC 7.30 – 9/4/13

As shown within Mr Turnbull’s latest register of interests, Mrs Turnbull has owned a diverse portfolio of shares in companies such as Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and currently Hochtief AG (HOTG.DE), both of which hold significant interests in the rollout of the National Broadband Network.  Utilising only their German stockmarket codes, most people wouldn’t be able to identify those two particular entries on Page 8 in Mr Turnbull’s submission, unless they knew what they were looking for.

NOTE  – “Member’s Interests” for Malcolm Turnbull – 2/6/2013 – Download Here

As a lot of IT commentators within Australia are aware, Siemens owns a half share of Nokia Siemens Networks, which is one of the NBN’s primary suppliers of optical transmission equipment. While their initial contract was only $10 million back in 2010, this project is expected to be worth over $400 million over the next 10 years. Coincidentally, Siemens also owns Silcar Communications in equal joint partnership with Theiss Australia, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Leighton Holdings, which in turn is majority owned by Hochtief AG. Given that Silcar has been selected as a primary constructor of the NBN for New South Wales, the A.C.T. and Queensland with an expected return of over $1.1 billion between June 2011 and June 2015, the rollout of the NBN would offer a major source of work to the associated consortiums throughout this period.

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