In years to come Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered as the communications minister who, under an instruction from then prime minister Tony Abbott, ‘demolished’ Labor’s 21st Century National Broadband Network. But another prominent politician had earlier inflicted enduring damage to any nascent aim of becoming an innovation nation and set us back in an emerging digitally enabled world. Are we heading towards a repeat of this mistake in telecommunications policy?
One of the then committee members, Philip Ruddock, challenged me to provide evidence, which was subsequently delivered in a confidential supplementary submission. As a result the committee made 29 recommendations for amendments to the Bill. The most important of these was a proposal for the PJCIS to undertake a review of the scheme after three years.
This week the PJCIS released its report on that review – making 22 recommendations that, if accepted, would lead to increased transparency, raise the threshold for when data can be accessed, and reduce overall access to our private data.
Australia invented the technology underpinning Wi-Fi, along with the ‘black box’ flight recorder, ultrasound scanners and the heart pacemaker – just to mention some of our globally recognised innovations. We have an enviable track record when it comes to technology.
And yet, apparently Prime Minister Scott Morrison just wants us to adopt other country’s technologies these days. This week he told us, “we’re not trying to create the next Silicon Valley here in Australia. That’s not it. We’ve just got to be the best at adopting (other country’s technology)”.
This week’s capitulation – that’s what it is – by communications minister Paul Fletcher sets us on a course that hopefully will see Australia start moving in the right direction again as we head further into a digitally-enabled future. It’s a welcomed move, but we’d be wise to take a close look at the detail in his National Press Club address before getting too excited.
Today we have finally reached the much-vaunted date on which the Government said it would have completed the rollout of the trouble-plagued National Broadband Network. Despite widespread industry expectations a media blitz by communications minister Paul Fletcher has so far not materialised. No ribbon cuttings and no skywriter plane spelling out “Mission Accomplished” as some jokingly predicted (see postscript).
A rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported in Victoria and New South Wales. China re-instating restrictions as it sees infections return. Our chief medical officer says his greatest fear is a second wave, and there’s the likelihood the coronavirus will linger around forever like the flu.
Yet another IT debacle from the federal government. But this one is different. In this case we could see people die.
The blunt reality is the COVIDSafe app is a dud. Poorly designed and incapabale of doing what it is intended to do. We need a contact tracing app that actually works.
Australia’s Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is right. In his latest vision speech he pointed to the benefits of decentralisation. It’s time we stopped cramming more and more people into already overcrowded cities. It’s predicted that pretty soon 90 percent of all Australians will live in our sprawling capitals. But does that really make sense?
The current health crisis has seen people forced to work from home. We’ve discovered that with modern technology we don’t all need to gather in CBD offices. It’s likely home working will continue when we emerge from the threat of the coronavirus.
PREFACE: It’s worth noting that Victoria is so far the only state known to have actually used the COVIDSafe app. It has now had 21 people who’ve tested positive let its health department download their data yet this didn’t identify anyone they didn’t already know about through existing manual contact tracing methods. Presumably the app missed numerous people with whom they must have come into contact. Time to fix it or flick it. Millions of Australians are out and about in the false belief that having downloaded the app they are somehow safer because that’s what the Government told them.
COVIDSafe is yet another flawed technology project from the Australian government. A failure to sufficiently consult with IT experts and privacy lawyers has significantly reduced public confidence, leading to a limited take-up that significantly reduces any potential benefit of the scheme.
People are wondering about the security of their personal and private information. The Attorney-General’s department declined to give a Senate hearing a guarantee that their legislation would override the US Cloud Act. This is important given that the data is stored with Amazon.
So, the Attorney General Christian Porter will ban law enforcement agencies from accessing metadata from the proposed Coronavirus contact tracing app. What, just like he stopped them obtaining people’s web browsing history without a warrant under the data detention scheme?