April, 2019

Protect our data, but don’t monitor us online

Australians have a high level of trust in governments to protect their personal information from misuse, a survey has found.
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But most oppose government efforts to monitor their internet use.

The study, by technology company Unisys, found more than 80 per cent of Australians trust Medicare to guard private data such as biometrics (eye scans or fingerprints), while about 75 per cent trust the Taxation Office.

There was also very strong support – 87 per cent – for camera surveillance of public roads.

However, only about one in two people would willingly give biometric details to other government agencies.

The study also found that more than half of Australians opposed increasing government surveillance of their internet use.

Unisys conducted its survey before revelations this month that the United States’ National Security Agency was collecting vast amounts of records of phone calls and internet use to monitor potential terrorism threats.

Those revelations shocked many Americans and have sparked a global debate about privacy rights in the age of terrorism.

The head of Unisys’s security programs in the Asia-Pacific, John Kendall, told Fairfax Media on Wednesday that Australians were generally trusting of government.

“The only commercial organisation that ranks similarly is banks . . .

“We’ve found previously that Australians are willing to give up a bit of their privacy if it’s in return for something that benefits them directly,” he said, giving the example of CCTV monitoring of roads.

But they were also “very worried about what might happen if there’s a breach”.

The survey found that, despite their faith in government, almost two-thirds of Australians were concerned about their welfare, tax or immigration details being stolen.

Mr Kendall warned governments to strengthen the security of mobile technologies in particular, which tended to be more vulnerable to hacking and viruses.

The company suggested government agencies set up a “corporate app store” to provide their staff with access to mobile apps that were safe to use.

The federal government tabled legislation last month that would force organisations to tell citizens when their private data had been accessed improperly.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said last week the present, voluntary disclosure scheme was inadequate.

“Data breaches are underreported to the [Australian] Information Commissioner and we continue to find out about them only through media reports,” he said.

Telstra began an investigation last month of reports that details of thousands of its customers – names, phone numbers, addresses and payment plans – had been published online.

Earlier this year, the ABC revealed that personal information about almost 50,000 of its website’s users had also been published after its network was hacked.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Post-production sector in serious decline

Despite a 30 per cent subsidy that has helped attract foreign productions such as After Earth to Australia, the post-production sector is struggling. Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures. After tortuous debate, the Sydney Film Festival judged Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling, best film in competition.
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Post-production blues

The difficulties facing the post-production sector have been highlighted by Australian Bureau of Statistics data presented at a one-day Screen Australia conference in Canberra this week. The analysis of the figures show that while the film and video production sector has grown by 38 per cent since 2006-07, the last time the sector was surveyed, to a total income of $2.19 billion, and employment was up by 23 per cent to 13,414 people (no distinction was made in the data between permanent and contract employment), the post-production sector was heading in the opposite direction. Total income in the post-production sector was down 25 per cent in 2011-12 compared to five years earlier, from $444 million to $329.6 million, despite a 30 per cent rebate that has helped attract foreign film productions such as the current Will Smith sci-Fi adventure After Earth to the country. Employment in the sector dropped by 21 per cent over the same period, from 2971 people to 2346. Industry sources suggest some of the decline is attributable to more post-production work being absorbed in-house, but the high Australian dollar is also a factor, at least as far as foreign contracts are concerned. The news comes just weeks after Dr George Miller held a massive auction of the contents of his Dr D animation studio, the last hurrah of an operation that at its peak employed about 650 people.SFF prizes for Only God Forgives, The Rocket

The Sydney Film Festival wrapped on the weekend, with attendances up 17 per cent year-on-year, to 143,050, a record according to organisers. It certainly capped things off in style by awarding the festival prize to Nicholas Winding Refn’s controversial hyper-violent thriller Only God Forgives, a film that has drawn charges of blatant misogyny from some viewers; word is the jury was divided, and spent six-and-a-half hours debating the merits (or otherwise) of giving the prize to Refn’s film. Less contentious by a long shot was the audience prize, which went to Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket. Shot on location in Laos and Thailand, the Australian-made film – about a boy who enters a traditional rocket festival competition to help save his poverty-stricken family who have been uprooted for the construction of a dam – has already won major awards at the TriBeca and Berlin film festivals, and our own Garry Maddox has gone out on a limb to tip it as a contender for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. It is due for general release on August 29.Film Vic funds feature docs

The forthcoming documentary Electric Boogaloo from Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley was one of two cinema-destined projects to receive funding in Film Victoria’s final round of the financial year. The other was The Earth Wins, also a documentary. Hartley’s film is about Israeli-born cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the founders of Cannon Pictures, which produced more than 100 exploitation films in Hollywood during the 1980s and ’90s (including Breakin’ 2: The Electric Boogaloo, from which Hartley’s film takes its name). Hartley – whose remake of the 1978 psychological horror classic Patrick is due for release in October – has vowed this will be his last documentary. Sara Hine, though, will be hoping The Earth Wins is just one of many. Shot entirely from the air on four continents over seven years, the film is the product of Melbourne-based Helifilms, in which Hine is producer and Jerry Grayson is helicopter pilot/director. The 40-minute environmental documentary is destined for IMAX cinemas and features music by New Order, the Temper Trap, Coldplay and the Who, among others. Hine told Fairfax earlier this year that the film was ready bar music clearances, and a bid to raise the necessary funds – $175,000 – on crowdfunding site Pozible fell short, so presumably Film Vic has come to the party on that score (so to speak).Adrian Wootton to return to MIFF

Speaking of festivals, the Melbourne International Film Festival is rapidly approaching. The full program will be announced on July 2 and the MIFF program guide will be in The Age on July 5, but some early teasers are starting to emerge. Just announced are the Wendall Thomas Talks Scripts and Adrian Wootton Talks events. LA-based developer, writer and lecturer Wendall Thomas will talk script structure in a series of four stand-alone all-day seminars on such topics as ”voiceover and flashbacks”, ”how to write a great villain”, and ”the three-act structure”. Former British Film Institute and London Film Festival director Adrian Wootton will deliver a return series of his illustrated film talks, this year looking at The Rolling Stones, the jazz age on film, and the screen adaptations of the novels of Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway.Details: miff上海夜生活m.au

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Woodchippers at risk after Boral exits

Another chip off the block as Boral leaves industry. Photo: Louie DouvisThe future of the woodchipping industry in NSW is in doubt, following a decision by timber company Boral to sell its export arm and wood processing plant.
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Decades of native forest woodchip exports from Newcastle to Japan now seem set to come to an end.

“Boral will exit the residue and woodchip export business and sell the associated processing plant and equipment based at Tea Gardens and at the Port of Newcastle, in NSW,” the company said.

Boral said it will shutter the business within days, and blamed a fall in demand and reduced competitiveness from the high Australian dollar.

“As part of our efforts to ensure Boral Timber remains a sustainable business, our restructure will result in some job losses, which is regrettable but, sadly, unavoidable,” a Boral Timber executive, Steve Dadd, said in a statement.

It will also exit the softwood distribution business in Queensland, and stop manufacturing floorboards in Murwillumbah, in NSW.

Eight permanent employees will be made redundant, and another 21 jobs would go as staff left or were redeployed elsewhere, the company said.

The company is also reportedly seeking to move its head office out of the Sydney CBD to cheaper offices in North Ryde or Chatswood.

Long battle

The company has fought a long war of words with environment groups in northern NSW, which turned up evidence of breaches in logging rules that they said revealed the unsustainable nature of the export woodchip industry.

“This gives the NSW Government an opportunity to dramatically reduce the intensity of logging that is trashing north coast forests,” said Susie Russell, the president of the North Coast Environment Council.

Boral Timber recently sought certification from the Forestry Stewardship Council, which it would have allowed it to sell its timber exports as “sustainable”.

An audit was conducted, but the results have not yet been released.

The Wilderness Society said the Boral decision to pull out of woodchipping showed that a recent push by some NSW Nationals MPs to allow selective logging in national parks should not be allowed.

A draft report produced by a NSW Upper House Committee chaired by Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Brown said the government should “immediately” open some national parks to logging to help prop up the state’s timber industry.

“It is sheer lunacy to log our national parks, our most precious environmental properties, when the state’s only export woodchipper north of Sydney struggles to sell its woodchips,” said Warrick Jordan, a Wilderness Society spokesman.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

The hidden victims of affordable housing

Modest house price growth could rob budding entrepreneurs of much-needed capital. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe Law of Unintended Consequences is always hard at work. What if an extended period of subdued house price increases – the preferred path to more affordable Australian housing – effectively wiped out a generation of would-be entrepreneurs?
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It was a possibility raised by the Reserve Bank’s head of domestic markets departments, Chris Aylmer, at a Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia lunch in Adelaide. Aylmer also convenes the RBA’s small business advisory panel so perhaps is more attuned than most to that sector’s particular funding needs.

The possibility or question is based on the role sharp increases in house prices played in providing the funding for new businesses in previous generations: Get on the mortgage treadmill, watch the value of the house rise to create equity that can then be borrowed against to fund a new enterprise, for better or for worse.

Aylmer suggests the current generation of would-be entrepreneurs are unlikely to be able to repeat the process.

For a start, higher house prices are a contributing factor for younger generations delaying their first purchase, getting on that treadmill that eventually provides the equity for a business loan from cautious banks. Then, with credit growth remaining subdued and the outlook for house price appreciation only a couple of per cent above the inflation rate, it’s likely to take considerably longer to build any sizeable equity anyway.

It’s a bleak picture for the renewal of small business under the patterns we have become used to. While there’s plenty of credit available for would-be home buyers, the banking industry remains wary of would-be business borrowers – start-ups without equity need not apply.

Asked if he had an answer to the problem he proposed, the central banker confessed he did not, but the need for greater innovation in the space becomes obvious as the traditional interaction between small business and financial institutions changes.

He suggested that venture capital could play a greater role, that intergenerational support could become a greater factor and that unsecured lending might become more common – but that would mean more responsibility for banks’ credit officers.

Small businesses familiar with the finance jungle might suggest a bank credit officer prepared to do unsecured business with a start-up is a very rare beast indeed, yet low credit growth in banks’ traditional hunting grounds should encourage them to look for other prey. Maybe.

Similarly, low interest rates and the search for yield should theoretically drive a broadening of venture capital’s appetite.

As for the intergenerational – cripes, Gen Y’s already been into the oldies for the gap year, the first car and is still living at home, so what’s another call on the parental balance sheet?

A more optimistic reading of Gen Y’s entrepreneurial skills would suggest there are methods Boomers haven’t heard of yet – crowd sourcing, capital-lite business models, virtual thingies of one sort of another. But that takes time to evolve while the traditional mainstay of small business funding hasn’t been functioning like it used to for several years now and isn’t like to revive any time soon. We now have a central bank on the record as being willing to “lean” against asset bubbles should they start to raise their ugly heads – the days of double-digit house price rises are over. Glenn Stevens says so.

A gradual appreciation of housing without the danger of a bubble pushing the RBA’s blunt instrument into action, housing becoming steadily more affordable relative to our income growth, they are nice things that we’d like to have – but no good deed goes unpunished.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor who chaired the MFAA lunch panel.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

‘Slap in the face’ for volunteer firefighters

Source: The Coastal Leader
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South Australia’s volunteer firefighters say they havebeen dealt a slap inthe face by the state government over a plantocompensatecareer firefighters for cancer without linking it to their work.

The bill was introduced into state parliament on Tuesday.

Under the bill, career firefighters would have automatic access to WorkCover payments for 12 cancers including brain, breast, bladder, kidney and prostate cancer along with leukaemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma from July 1.

The plan doesn’t include 14,500 volunteer firefighters which Volunteers Association president Roger Flavell said was discriminatory.

“I honestly cannot believe that the government has singled some firefighters out to not receive the compensation. It’s just crazy,” Mr Flavell said.

“It’s fair to say that the volunteers are extremely disappointed and there is a rising tide of anger that the government would dare to go down this line.

“It’s definitely discrimination.”

Mr Flavell said he hasreceived numerous calls over the past week from volunteers from as far away as Ceduna who are upset and willing to march on Parliament House.

“Volunteers put in millions of dollars of labour of every year to keep communities right across this state safe,” Mr Flavell said.

“Our volunteers are extremely upset and we can’t believe the government has tried this to be honest. They are not going to get away with it. There’s no way we are going to stand being discriminated against.”

Attorney-General John Rau, who introduced the bill, said there was insufficient evidence to support an increased prevalence of cancers in volunteers.

“We know that career firefighters are exposed to a greater risk of developing certain types of cancer due to the direct exposure to carcinogens released by some combustable materials, particularly in confined spaces,” Mr Rau said.

The plan has come under fire by both the state opposition and the Greens who believe CFS volunteers should have the same access to compensation for specified cancers as full-time firefighters.

“Cancer doesn’t distinguish between a paid firefighter and a volunteer firefighter,” saidParliamentary Secretary Mitch Williams.

“We recognise that CFS volunteers may well face a level of exposure to potential health risks, especially in peri-urban areas, which is not significantly different to full time firefighters.”

Greens’ Industrial Relations spokesperson Tammy Franks expressed herdisappointed.

She said the Greens’ bill had already been passed through the Upper House but would require thesupport of the state government to pass in the Lower House.

“There is a significant body of science linking these sorts of structural fires with a significantly heightened risk of cancer and we know that our MFS and CFS firefighters often stand shoulder to shoulder at these incidents,” Ms Franks said.

“We won’t be letting it through the Parliament without volunteers getting protection too.”

Government compensation plan will exclude more than 14,000 volunteer firies from cover for work-related cancers.