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Australian PM Pushes for Crackdown on “Misogynistic” Speech Amid Fears Free Speech Is Fading

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s latest push for stringent internet censorship will continue to spark debate over free speech.

Following his more recent online censorship demands, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is doubling down and has advocated for more stringent controls on what is labeled as “misogynistic” online content. This initiative comes as plans are set for a national cabinet session in 2024 focused on women’s safety, which will address online harassment, among other issues.

This move marks another significant focus by the government, ostensibly on enhancing women’s safety, but raising alarms about potential overreach in curtailing free speech, as its other speech-related policies have done.

“Young adults should not be coached in disrespect or misogyny by online influencers,” Prime Minister Albanese said.

“I understand parents want to protect their kids from harmful material online,” Albanese added. “Social platforms have important social responsibilities and we need them to step up. Taken together, these reforms will give Australian families some of the tools they need to navigate the complexity of the digital world.”

The Prime Minister added that the legislation would carry “serious criminal penalties.”

The proposed measures include better tracking and monitoring the speech of those considered high-risk or repeat offenders and a drive to significantly reduce the presence of misogynistic content on social media platforms.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has expressed concern about the widespread dissemination of such content, particularly its impact on young users of social media. “The reality is that digital platforms are influencing our culture and social lives. They have a responsibility to do more to meet community standards,” Rowland said.

However, critics argue that the measures could infringe on digital rights and free expression, especially given the opaque nature of the algorithms that determine content dissemination.

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Australian Authorities Push for Encryption Backdoors After Internet Censorship Attempt

Australia ramps up calls for “accountable encryption,” pushing tech giants toward compliance with controversial backdoor legislation.

In a relentless bid to give some of the most authoritarian regimes in the world a run for their money where internet censorship is concerned, Australia’s government continues to come up with one dubious initiative after another.

Recently, there was an attempt to censor content globally (related to two stabbing attacks in Australia), and shortly after, the country’s intelligence chief Mike Burgess, and Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw addressed the National Press Club, to launch yet another attack on encryption by urging compliance with encryption backdoors legislation.

Burgess chose to call this – “accountable encryption.”

It isn’t “accountable” right now because, while Australia has passed laws to essentially break encryption, those who are supposed to implement them, technology companies, are not cooperating.

“I am asking the tech companies to do more. I’m asking them to give effect to the existing powers and to uphold existing laws. Without their help in very limited and strictly controlled circumstances, encryption is unaccountable,” he said.

Burgess was careful to nestle his encryption backdoors plea among seemingly reasonable arguments, such as that encryption provides privacy and is “clearly a good thing” that “enables” transactions (he for some reason chose not to stress that it is in fact necessary for secure transactions).

But, the Australian spy chief went on, encryption also “creates safe spaces for violent extremists to operate, network and recruit.”

And it is their encrypted messages – and only theirs, governments around the world promise faithfully – that the authorities, as “good actors,” would like to be able to access communications at will.

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Australian Senator Says Elon Musk Should Be in Jail and The “Key Be Thrown Away” Over Free Speech Clash

Senator Jacqui Lambie calls for Elon Musk’s indefinite imprisonment after his refusal to comply with Australian censorship demands.

Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has called for Australian politicians to abandon Elon Musk’s social media platform X and has said that Elon Musk should be jailed indefinitely.

Musk’s crime? Refusing to comply with the country’s chief censor’s demands for censorship, not only in Australia itself but around the world.

The recent injunction obtained by Commissioner Julie Inman Grant temporarily halted the distribution of posts containing footage from the terrorist attack.

The tech mogul has expressed much resistance to complying with the Australian eSafety Commissioner’s demands to remove content. This comes after Musk failed to remove footage and speech surrounding the recent attack, involving the stabbing of a Bishop in Sydney.

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During an interview with Sky News Australia, Senator Lambie criticized Musk for allegedly fostering hatred by allowing the content to remain on his platform. She announced her boycott of X, urging her colleagues to follow suit, saying, “When you want to lead by example, it has to happen from here, so start switching off X.”

Lambie called Musk a “social media knob” with “no social conscience” and suggested that he should be jailed indefinitely. “Someone like that should be in jail and the key be thrown away,” Lambie said.

Senator Lambie’s remarks gained traction amid an ongoing backlash against Musk’s disregard for global censorship orders from the eSafety Commissioner. Both Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton expressed dissatisfaction with the billionaire’s free speech stance, with the Prime Minister calling for stronger government control over social media companies.

Prime Minister Albanese called Musk “arrogant” for refusing to carry out the government’s censorship demands, calling the censorship orders merely an enforcement of “common decency.”

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Orwellian Sydney Police: We Will Be the “Source of Truth”

Sydney residents question the implications of centralized truth and censorship in the wake of a government’s push to police online discourse.

Offering a fresh perspective on the fallout of a recent Sydney stabbing attack, residents have expressed their anger and mistrust toward the police who have insisted they alone should be the arbiter of truth in this incident. These sentiments stem from a press briefing given by New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb last Thursday.

Webb, who was sharing information about a 16-year-old male being accused of terrorism following the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of Christ The Good Shepherd Church, asserted that the police will be the utterly reliable source of updates. She warned against “misinformation,” but decided not to elaborate on what she was alluding to.

“I also want to stress that there is misinformation being communicated across social media, and people should not share any of that information,” Webb said. “The source of information should be from police and law enforcement authorities. And if people have concerns they should check our websites, our socials, and any other direct news from law enforcement about current information. If we have current credible information about any risk or threat to the community, we will let them know, we will share that with the community. But please be assured that police will be the source of truth and not social media and misinformation.”

This attempt by the Australian police to monopolize control over the narrative of the incident has raised concerns among the online community about censorship, especially as the government has been pressuring online platforms to censor in recent days. The government has even gone as far as telling people to report their fellow citizens’ speech to the country’s chief censor.

Economist Steve Keen says the planet cannot sustain 8 billion people | The Business | ABC News

Coles, Woolworths recycling scheme collapses after secret stockpiles revealed

Australia’s largest plastic bag recycling program has collapsed amid revelations hundreds of millions of bags and other soft plastic items dropped off by customers at Coles and Woolworths are being secretly stockpiled in warehouses and not recycled.

Instead of being taken to companies that use the plastic to make other items, REDcycle has been transporting the plastic to warehouses for long-term storage in what some experts consider a potential environmental and fire safety risk.

Lucinda Moje-O’Brien routinely recycles her plastic bags at REDcycle supermarket collection points.
Lucinda Moje-O’Brien routinely recycles her plastic bags at REDcycle supermarket collection points.CREDIT:JASON SOUTH

The Melbourne-based company, which claims to collect up to 5 million plastic items a day from public drop-off points at nearly 2000 supermarkets across the country, did not publicly announce the suspension of the recycling component of its program, and has for months continued collecting large volumes of soft plastics including shopping bags, pet food bags, ice cream wrappers, bubble wrap and frozen food packaging.

The plastics collected are usually sent to other companies, where they are used as ingredients in concrete, asphalt, street furniture, bollards and shopping trolleys.

On Tuesday evening, after questions from this masthead, REDcycle announced it would suspend its collection program from Wednesday due to “untenable pressure” on its business model.

Woolworths apologised to customers on Tuesday. Coles declined to comment about when it became aware REDcycle was collecting plastic from its supermarkets that were not being recycled.

A spokeswoman for REDcycle said “several unforeseen challenges, exacerbated by the pandemic” meant that three companies that normally accepted the plastic for recycling were no longer doing so.

The processing problems are expected to continue until mid-2023, which could mean more than 1 billion plastic items – or thousands of tonnes – are stockpiled in warehouses. REDcycle would not reveal how much plastic is currently stockpiled in its facilities.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Massive Anti-Russian ‘Bot Army’ Exposed By Australian Researchers

An Australian university has unearthed millions of Tweets by fake ‘bot’ accounts pushing disinformation on the Ukraine war.
‘Bot armies’ are on the march in the Ukraine-Russia war, with automated ‘bot’ accounts sending up to 80% of tweets in the study sample size of over 5-million tweets, with anti-Russia accounts comprising 90.2% of all accounts. Here, shelves of confiscated GSM gateways, containing hundreds of sim cards using the mobile network to create thousands of fake bot accounts to distribute millions of fake tweets. (Photo: Ukraine Security Service, SBU)

Ateam of researchers at the University of Adelaide have found that as many as 80 percent of tweets about the 2022 Russia-Ukraine invasion in its early weeks were part of a covert propaganda campaign originating from automated fake ‘bot’ accounts.

An anti-Russia propaganda campaign originating from a ‘bot army’ of fake automated Twitter accounts flooded the internet at the start of the war. The research shows of the more than 5-million tweets studied, 90.2 percent of all tweets (both bot and non-bot) came from accounts that were pro-Ukraine, with fewer than 7 percent of the accounts being classed as pro-Russian.

The university researchers also found these automated tweets had been purposely used to drive up fear amongst people targeted by them, boosting a high level of statistically measurable ‘angst’ in the online discourse.

The research team analysed a massively unprecedented 5,203,746 tweets, sent with key hashtags, in the first two weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from 24 February this year. The researchers considered predominately English-language accounts, with a calculated 1.8-million unique Twitter accounts in the dataset posting at least one English-language tweet.

The results were published in August in a research paper, titled “#IStandWithPutin versus #IStandWithUkraine: The interaction of bots and humans in discussion of the Russia/Ukraine war“, by the University of Adelaide’s School of Mathematical Science.

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NT’s Blacktip gas field production drops, forcing shutdown of Northern Gas Pipeline

photo from a height of a power station with the sea in the background
The Channel Island power station is the main provider of electricity to the Darwin-Katherine interconnected system.(Supplied: Territory Generation)

Production from the offshore field which supplies gas for the Top End’s electricity generation has decreased by nearly 50 per cent this year — raising concerns about the long-term security of the resource.

Power and Water Corporation (PWC) has an agreement with Italian company ENI to buy gas from its Blacktip field until 2031, using the gas to generate electricity for the Darwin to Katherine grid.

But over the past 12 months, gas output from the field has been steadily dropping.

Blacktip’s production has decreased so much that there is not enough gas to run the Tennant Creek to Mount Isa pipeline, where PWC normally sends its excess supply.

Wood Mackenzie energy research analyst Anne Forbes said it was common for gas fields to have production issues, but Blacktip’s problems seemed particularly bad.

“There’s been quite a significant [production] decline, much more severe than we would generally assume would happen for this type of gas field,” she said.

“It’s been quite unexpected.”

Aging electricity infrastructure in the Northern Territory
Most of the Northern Territory’s electricity is provided by gas-fired power stations.(ABC News)

The Blacktip field is made up of 12 separate stacked reservoirs across four different geological formations — meaning it is difficult to extract gas from.

“[A gas reservoir] will always not perform as you expect — it might be better or it might be worse,” Ms Forbes said.

“In this case it’s not been as good as [ENI] had hoped.”

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Most productive NSW agricultural shire counts hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses

aerial farm flooding shot
Crops on the verge of harvest have been wiped out.(Supplied: Rabbit Hop Films)

New South Wales’s peak farming body says the damage bill for wheat losses alone in the state’s flood-hit north-west will surpass $150 million.

Parts of Moree, Gunnedah, Dubbo and Moama have been evacuated as more than 140 flood warnings remain across the state.

Agronomists say the grain-growing hub of the north-west is expected to have “conservatively” lost more than 120,000 hectares of wheat that was nearly ready to harvest.

The region also boasts large barley and canola outputs and is in the summer planting window for crops such as cotton and sorghum.

The NSW Farmers Association is calling on the federal government to bolster flood support payments in Labor’s first budget in this term of government.

The lobby group’s Grains Committee chair, Justin Everitt said the dollar value of the wheat damage is on top of approximately $42 million farmers spent to grow the crop, in a year where input costs have been extraordinarily high.

He said crops are “now drowning beneath floodwater” and may be a “complete write-off” if paddocks don’t dry out soon.

“You spend all this money preparing your paddocks, sowing your crops, fertilising and spraying them, only to see them wiped out a couple weeks before harvest. It’s heartbreaking,” Mr Everitt said.

“Farmers know they’re taking a bit of a gamble when they’re planting a crop, but this ongoing wet weather with flood after flood after flood is just unbelievable.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Most productive NSW agricultural shire counts hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses

aerial farm flooding shot
Crops on the verge of harvest have been wiped out.(Supplied: Rabbit Hop Films)

New South Wales’s peak farming body says the damage bill for wheat losses alone in the state’s flood-hit north-west will surpass $150 million.

Parts of Moree, Gunnedah, Dubbo and Moama have been evacuated as more than 140 flood warnings remain across the state.

Agronomists say the grain-growing hub of the north-west is expected to have “conservatively” lost more than 120,000 hectares of wheat that was nearly ready to harvest.

The region also boasts large barley and canola outputs and is in the summer planting window for crops such as cotton and sorghum.

The NSW Farmers Association is calling on the federal government to bolster flood support payments in Labor’s first budget in this term of government.

The lobby group’s Grains Committee chair, Justin Everitt said the dollar value of the wheat damage is on top of approximately $42 million farmers spent to grow the crop, in a year where input costs have been extraordinarily high.

He said crops are “now drowning beneath floodwater” and may be a “complete write-off” if paddocks don’t dry out soon.

“You spend all this money preparing your paddocks, sowing your crops, fertilising and spraying them, only to see them wiped out a couple weeks before harvest. It’s heartbreaking,” Mr Everitt said.

“Farmers know they’re taking a bit of a gamble when they’re planting a crop, but this ongoing wet weather with flood after flood after flood is just unbelievable.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Simple answer is we can’t do renewable energy the way it is being ‘planned’

Simple answer is we can’t do renewable energy the way it is being ‘planned’

Grid renewal generates billion-dollar shock as costs of energy transition become clear

A woman looks up at a large transmission tower.
Consumers are looking at a major increase in spending on power networks across Australia.(ABC News: Hugh Hogan)

Australian consumers have been told to brace for big hikes in their power bills after a watchdog revealed the true costs of overhauling the grid to deal with the renewable energy transition.

In a decision heralded as a landmark, Western Australia’s economic regulator this month said the state’s major electricity network provider should be allowed to spend $9 billion over the next five years – $1 billion more than it requested.

Network— or poles and wires — costs typically account for up to half the average electricity bill, with the rest made up of costs associated with generation, retailing and environmental policies.

Economic Regulation Authority chairman Steve Edwell said the draft decision reflected the urgent need for upgrades to Western Power’s network to ensure it could handle the surge of renewable energy flooding onto the system.

But Mr Edwell, who was also the inaugural chairman of the Australian Energy Regulator, said it was also a sign of what was to come around the country, where poles-and-wires companies face a race against time and a huge increase in costs to make sure they can keep up with the energy transition.

“The period between now and 2027 is pivotal,” Mr Edwell said.

“We’ve got to get it right and we’ve got to make sure the grid is in as good a shape as it can be to enable this transformation to continue at pace.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Australia invokes emergency powers to block coal exports in energy crisis

Australia invokes emergency powers to block coal exports in energy crisis

Authorities permitted to keep supplies, if needed, after consumers told to turn off the lights

Australian authorities have given themselves the power to block coal exports if the resource is needed to ease the country’s crippling power crisis in the latest measure taken to avert the risk of blackouts.

Rising coal and gas prices, coupled with outages at ageing coal-fired power stations, have plunged the market into turmoil this week, forcing the Australian Energy Market Operator to take control of the wholesale market to ensure reliable supply of electricity to eastern states.

The government of New South Wales invoked emergency powers on Friday to oblige miners operating in the state to redirect coal heading overseas to local generators. The precautionary move was taken to strengthen energy security on the advice of AEMO.

“We’re just giving ourselves all the levers we need to give the community certainty that we’re doing everything we can to keep the system going,” said Matt Kean, the energy minister and treasurer for New South Wales, the country’s most populous state.

The energy crisis has highlighted the failure of Australia, one of the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, to prepare for the transition to renewable energy sources by investing in modernising the country’s electricity infrastructure, analysts say.

“We are in an invidious position. It is a global story as there is a gas shortage and prices are skyrocketing but for Australia it is combined with coal-fired power stations going offline,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of the Australia Institute think-tank. The crisis has highlighted how a failure to prepare for renewable energy becoming a larger part of domestic supply was hitting the country’s consumers in the form of higher bills and potential blackouts, he added.

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Australia’s Energy Crisis Worsens As Gov’t Ask People To Keep Lights Off To Avert Blackouts

Australia’s Energy Crisis Worsens As Gov’t Ask People To Keep Lights Off To Avert Blackouts

Australia’s energy minister asked Sydney and the New South Wales (eastern part of the country) residents to turn off lights and energy-intensive appliances in the evening to prevent power blackouts due to an ongoing energy crunch, The Independent reports.

The federal energy minister, Chris Bowen, asked residents in a televised address to turn off energy-intensive devices between “6 to 8 [pm]” to mitigate risks of a spike in power during peak hours. He pointed to several offline coal-fired plants because of maintenance and unexpected issues.

Reuters notes that 65% of eastern Australia’s power is generated by coal, but more than a quarter of that capacity is offline.

Wholesale electricity prices have soared and on Monday exceeded the capped price of A$300 per megawatt-hour. Above A$300, coal power generation plants lost money and forced some operators to shutter power generation units, thus removing energy capacity off the grid and sending prices even higher. The rise of power prices began when coal prices jumped following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bowen snapped at a journalist when asked if more coal power is the answer the energy crunch.

“The situation in recent days has posed challenges to the entire energy industry, and suspending the market would simplify operations during the significant outages across the energy supply chain,” Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) chief executive Daniel Westerman said in a statement.

“It was understandable generators had held back supply in light of the price caps along with unplanned outages and supply challenges with coal and gas, but having to direct generators to provide supply had made it impossible to maintain normal market operations,” Westerman said. 

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Not Enough Renewables: Minister Blames Australian Electricity Shortage on Lack of Green Energy

Not Enough Renewables: Minister Blames Australian Electricity Shortage on Lack of Green Energy

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has blamed Australia’s current electricity shortage on a supposed lack of investment in renewable energy and storage facilities from the previous government.

The Labor minister was responding to questions on whether Australia should simply increase—or repair—coal-fired energy generators that already provide around 64.67 percent of the country’s total electricity, as of December 2021.

“The problem is there hasn’t been enough investment in renewable energy,” Bowen told reporters on June 16. “There hasn’t been enough investment in storage.”

“Yes, you can say the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. Well, the rain doesn’t always fall out there, but we managed to store the water,” he said.

“We can store the renewable energy if we have the investment, and that investment has been lacking for the last decade. That’s the problem.”

Outside of coal, the National Electricity Market is supported (pdf) by wind power (10.45 percent of total generation), hydro (7.21 percent), individual solar systems (7.09 percent), gas (6.57 percent), and grid-scale solar (3.85 percent) among others.

Incidentally, Australia has been one of the fastest nations to adopt rooftop solar technology installing over 380,000 systems in 2021, with the Clean Energy Regulator saying the combined amount of electricity generated was 3,200 megawatts.

Further, experts have noted that simply building more batteries to increase storage capacity was unfeasible. One of the world’s largest battery storage systems is FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center in Florida, which can power approximately 329,000 homes but for only a two hour period.

Another problem with increasing battery production would be an increased reliance on Chinese supply chains, which would be risky considering the willingness of the Chinese Communist Party to leverage trade relationships in geopolitical disputes.

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