Someone To Watch Over Me

Today’s Guest Post is by Catalyst; as always, many thanks!

Despite the romance implicit in George and Ira Gershwin’s song and its pleasant imagery of care, are we content to be ‘watched over’? Is it a comfortable arrangement, one that’s in our best interests? Or is it a step too far in to our personal lives, as some fear? Alternatively, as others suggest, is it a necessary evil, an efficient means of combating fraud? Exactly what does it mean for us today?

Thanks, but No Thanks

(Image Credit: Sydney Morning Herald)

Back in 1985-87 a controversial proposal for a national identity card was launched. To be labelled the Australia Card, it drew furious protests and heated opposition. Australians baulked at the idea of having to carry identity documents, like those living under some petty dictatorship.

Suggested at the National Tax Summit, the Australia Card’s stated purpose was to stop tax avoidance, as well as health and welfare fraud. In 1986, the Hawke Labor government attempted to get the legislation through the house; but met fierce opposition in the Senate.

Frustrated by repeated attempts to pass the legislation, Bob Hawke asked the then Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen to call a double dissolution of parliament. This was granted and Australians went to the polls.

After the July 1987 election the Hawke government was returned, but still with a hostile Senate. Before a joint sitting of parliament could be called to pass the legislation (Labor had the numbers), a drafting flaw was identified, which meant the bill was withdrawn. And the proposal was not revisited.

The identity card idea was not to resurface until 2005, when then Prime Minister John Howard floated the suggestion again, in the wake of the London bombings. He suggested such a card would combat terrorism and also tighten immigration controls. Despite this, the proposal did not win sufficient support.

Not Only – But Also…

Shortly after the rejection of the initial Australia card proposal in the 1980s, the Tax File Number system was introduced for all working Australians. It identified the worker, remaining with them throughout their working life. It could also be used to check a person’s eligibility for welfare.

(Image Credit: TSC Services)

And then there is the Medicare Card, which began with a scheme introduced by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 called Medibank .This was planned to provide more affordable health care for everyone. It was to allow free treatment for patients in public hospitals, paid for by a small levy, but with low income earners granted an exemption. Hospital costs were to be shared equally between the Federal government and the states. The concept aimed to provide a fairer system, to spread the costs, and to be easier to administer.

The scheme was rejected by the Senate on three occasions: 12 December 1973 and August and December 1974. After a joint sitting following a double dissolution election, the legislation was passed and became law 1975.

A few months later Malcolm Fraser was elected and ordered a review of the programme The findings were not made public, but he embarked on changing how Medibank would work, essentially undermining it.

In 1976 the Fraser government established a private health fund called Medibank Private. Numerous changes followed, tinkering at the edges of the publicly popular programme. Perhaps the most insidious was the ability to opt out of paying the Medibank levy by taking out private insurance.

With the election of the Hawke Labor government, Medibank was saved from further changes and returned to its Whitlam-inspired roots. It was renamed Medicare in 1984, perhaps to better represent the concept of what it was intended to do; provide care at a time when most people are feeling vulnerable .

Throughout the 1980s the Coalition niggled about Medicare. The 1983 election might be best remembered for John Hewson’s attempts to explain the GST, but changes to Medicare were also in the mix. Bulk billing remained a permanent subject of contention.

By 1993 it seemed all sides of politics had accepted the inevitability of bulk billing and it remained basically unchanged throughout the Howard years. Other changes to health policy, such as the 30% private health insurance rebate were brought in, to counter the decline in health fund membership. It remains to be seen what changes to health care may be proposed by the Abbott government, though recently, some ideas have been rumoured.

Up until now, the Medicare Card has worked as a de-facto identity card. It is especially important for those people who do not have a drivers licence.

Big Brother is Watching YOU! But Who Cares?

(Image Credit: Tales Untangled)

The dystopian world envisaged by George Orwell in his novel 1984 has been rendered less threatening by demystifying its most feared concept-that of Big Brother. No longer is it a synonym for pervasive state spying – it’s merely a harmless concept for a reality TV show. It seems most people are comfortable with a little light surveillance, especially when it carries a significant cash prize. Older people may shake their heads, but younger ones shrug off their concerns

It is my contention that what we were not prepared to do by compulsion- carry identity cards, we have embraced voluntarily, so allow me to explain what I mean.

Almost all adults and a majority of children carry an identifier with them at all time. What’s that? Despite about 80% of households having a fixed phone line, it’s the mobile phone.

According to Roy Morgan research 88% of the population aged over 14 years owned a mobile phone in 2011. We can assume that the figure is probably higher now. A mobile (and a smart one at that!) is seen as an essential in everyday life. And every year phones have more enticing and clever applications, designed to tempt even the most luddite amongst us.

Roy Morgan reports that even the over 65s have a mobile phone uptake of 72%, while the 25-34 age group had the highest proportion at 95%.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports on children’s mobile phone usage. It finds that single parents are more likely to let their children have a mobile phone (38%) as it enables them to stay in contact with family. Younger children are less likely to have phone than the key 12-14 age group (76%).

Once acquired, it’s a convenience few will wish to relinquish .I know of one father who offered his 20+daughter $100 in exchange for giving up her mobile for one day. She refused.

What many people forget is that when the phone is switched on your every move can be traced. Even when it’s switched off, apparently it still possible to trace a mobile .The United States security agency NSA reportedly can do so. No one will guarantee that even if you take the battery out of the phone you will be undetectable.

And of course as many phone scandals have demonstrated, you can be eavesdropped on, your conversations monitored and possibly logged.

Assuming you are not a terrorist, does it matter? Should it matter? We presume our governments are benign, and do not mean their citizens harm. But are we being corralled like sheep?

Quis Custodiet Ipso Custodes?

(Image Credit: Emergent Chaos)

What protections do we have under law? There is the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) with powers to regulate the Privacy Act 1988, as well as the Freedom of Information Act 1982. It operates under the auspices of The Department of the Attorney General.

The OAIC has the authority to investigate complaints about the possible mishandling of personal information by Australian, Norfolk Island and ACT government agencies, as well as private sector organisations. It is also responsible for investigating and reviewing decisions made under The Freedom of Information Act.

New controls over who can access to information and what they must tell you are due to come into force in March 2014. Details are available on their website.

Enquiries have revealed that the OAIC is currently unaware of any proposals to cut its funding. Time will tell if the situation remains, potentially they could be busier than ever, as there is more erosion into our privacy – by supermarkets, by websites – which might be more fully explored in a further post.

© Catalyst 2014

575 thoughts on “Someone To Watch Over Me

  1. Ducky – All the signs of a man believing his own glop. I assumed those were just election-campaign lines he was using to sell his crapola brainfarts to the Australian public. They have no place on the world stage.

  2. Read it ducky!…..jeezus h. … about “Childe Anthony” !……perhaps for a starter someone could tell him about unequal currency exchange and it’s effect on “free trade”.

  3. Boring. Same old speeches, same old tired lines.

    No matter the audience, it never changes.

    Attacking your political foes at diplomatic events is a complete no-no, especially when those foes have left the game altogether. It’s crass and shows complete disrespect for the other attendees who really don’t care about the political machinations of other nations.

    Abbott is not exhibiting any signs of growth in the job, if anything he is shrinking away before us.

  4. David Bowie once explained his song writing technique –

    Originally developed in the early 1950s by painter, writer and sound poet Brion Gysin, the technique involves slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences.

    Bowie explained: “You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects, creating a kind of ‘story ingredients’ list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ‘em up and reconnect them.

    So it is with Abbott. He has a selection of phrases and three word slogans. When he needs to make a speech he – or more likely Peta – just chooses random words and phrases from the list and bungs them all together. He has done this so many times that we can practically sing along to his speeches.

  5. I guess the really stupid thing about that speech was that the world actually did sit up and take notice of our response to the GFC. Abbott’s just let them know that he was there for the whole thing and didn’t even know what was happening.

  6. Abbott flies to Switzerland and talks with ……….Australian business leaders. He could have done that at home.

    The Davos Experience

    On day two of what Tony Abbott refers to as “the Davos experience”, he had what he described as “an excellent meeting with some of Australia’s most senior and important business people”. One may wonder why he has to fly to Switzerland to meet with Aussies but Mr Abbott assured us that it was “not because we love travel, but because we want to do the right thing by the people, the workers and the businesses of our country.”

  7. Another embarassing Davos moment from The Idiot – I saw a screen shot from this last night and thought it had to have been photo-shopped. It wasn’t. This is the real deal.

  8. leonetwo,

    [ Another embarrassing Davos moment from The Idiot – ]

    Blimey, if I go anywhere overseas this year and somebody asks me if I am Australian, I would have to admit to being a Kiwi or Canadian or something.

    That video is cringworthy stuff. You could tell by the Professor’s response & body language that he was thinking, “”who in the bloody hell is this idiot”!

    He looked like he was in a bit of a hurry to make his exit not knowing what the idiot might do next. 👿

  9. Another embarassing Davos moment from The Idiot

    Of course the media’s spin will be something along the lines of “Oh that Tony, always saying weird shit.” Of course if Julia Gillard had said something like that we would’ve been treated to endless articles about how she was not cut out to be a leader.

  10. The media have their hands tied over Abbott’s economic statements. They bought into all that GFC crap he was spouting at the time, they made it part of the political narrative in this country. No matter how stupid it looks on the international stage, they’re obliged to follow through with it. Their only alternative is to re-write the entire story and do a sort of a “we were wrong” about their entire body of writing since 2009. They’re not going to let that happen to their collective pride, so we have to go through this pretence that Abbott is talking sense. And thus Abbott makes not only his government but our entire press corps a laughing stock internationally.

  11. Will these “Syrian Goodies” Abbott has in mind be riding a 3-seater bicycle?

    The simpleton probably thinks it’ll be that easy.

  12. They’ll be forced to portray Abbott as a talker of “common sense” on the big stage, and a bit of a goofball in his interpersonal relations. Complete fiction, as he’s an f-wit in all forums, but it’s the story they’re now stuck with.

  13. Some things never change!!
    For several years now I have been doing sporadic research on my extended family history. Today I found out that a relative was locked up on the “kids hulk” prison Vernon in Sydney harbor by a Magistrate T Abbott. His crime, not being in work. His age, 11, yes 11. This was in 1898. I think our Tony would like to revisit those days.

  14. Blimey! If Turnbull can convince Abbott to go with FtP, we’ll be able to download some serious pawn if the NBN can wind it up like this!

    [ LONDON: In a breakthrough, scientists in the UK have achieved the “fastest ever” broadband speeds of 1.4 terabits per second – enough to transmit 44 high-definition movies at once.

    The joint test by British Telecom (BT) and French networking equipment company Alcatel-Lucent achieved the high speeds of 1.4 terabits per second, or 1,83,501MBps, on the existing fibre network in London.

    The breakthrough is being seen as highly important for internet service providers (ISPs), as it means a greater amount of information can be sent through existing broadband infrastructure, reducing the need for costly upgrades. ]

  15. Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    As all youse know, I was once for a brief time a paid-up member of the Liberal Party.

    Never ever (to the nth) again.

    The best to be said about PM BLOOD OAF’S “keynote” today is that it’s a great emetic.

    Could we bottle it – and him?

  16. and doesn’t Peta look like a miserable b…. I guess with her job she doesn’t have much to smile about!

    No doubt Peta is bored witless having to keep the abbott company in the wallflower corner. Appears to me the abbott’s company is avoided where possible.

  17. The original picture by Fernando Morales-de la Cruz of “women at Davos” does NOT include Julia Gillard. The actual poster is here. Someone has cut and pasted Gillard’s picture into the original, or so it seems. Why it’s on the AAPNEWSWIRE site is not explained – it may be an intentional spoof. The spoofed picutre is here .

  18. Leone,

    That reference to Brian Gysin’s cutup technique on David Bowie might better have been to William Burroughs. Burroughs got the cutup idea from Gysin (his lover at the time), and Bowie would have in turn been influenced by Burroughs, who of course was famous for his novels, some of which used this method. There was a celebrated cover story in Rolling Stone magazine entitled (from memory) “Beat Godfather meets Glitter Mainman”. It had a great picture on the magazine’s cover of Bowie standing next to Burroughs.

    It was common in those days for rock stars (Jagger was another) to be seen courting Burroughs, who was at the time the counterculture’s heavy duty intellectual (as much due to his status as a druggie’s role model, I’d add, as it was to being a writer). Later, as Burroughs’ influence declined with his advancing age, this role passed to another scribbling druggie, Hunter Thompson. (In the latter case, the acolyte also changed: Bowie became Johnny Depp.)

  19. Of all the comments on Abbott’s mumblings at Davos, I like this slogan…: “BORAT DOES DAVOS”.

  20. I think, with this unbridled beligerence coming from the LNP. coalition on all matters, we are witnessing the coming end of the Liberal Party and perhaps also the Nats’ by association.

    This surge to the right in recent years cannot support even the most benign social policies of a future Liberal philosophy….the Party has already ceased to exist in its’ old format and is remaking itself as another thing altogether….whatever that is, it certainly is not “liberal” and it certainly is not “Australian”.

  21. dedalus
    Yes, Burroughs used it before Bowie, and so did others before him. It has an interesting history.

    There was also the fold-in technique, where you take two printed pages, fold each down the middle, put them together and use what you find there. Burroughs used this too but again, wasn’t the first.

  22. What really happened at Davos, because the media won’t tell us.

    As I thought, The Idiot spoke to an almost empty hall –

    Sign of the times. Rouhani packed out the hall. everyone is leaving before Tony Abbott explains Australia's ambitions for the G20 in 2014— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) January 23, 2014

    More tweets from Chris Giles, on the spot at the time, covering the speech for the UK Financial Times.
    Australia’s Tony Abbott is sounding v right wing. Crisis was not “a crisis of markets but one of governance”
    Abbott copies David Cameron’s “open for business” line
    Abbot uncomfortable with all this G20 stuff. Ends saying “better governance does not mean more government
    abbott not taking questions on G20. As Mrs Thatcher would ask, is he frit?

  23. Leone,
    It is as I thought – the abbott is a wallflower and avoided by everyone with half a brain. Australia has been relegated to the arse end of the world and not worth thinking about.

  24. Wasn’t that more of a timing thing? If I’m not mistaken, there was another, much more interesting, presentation scheduled to start at the same time as Abbott’s speech. It’s still amusing to think of Abbott speaking to an empty hall, and it probably goes to the priorities of those who did the scheduling. But it also might partly explain why Abbott did a rehash of his electoral speeches. His only likely audience, despite his being overseas, was a domestic one.

  25. leonetwo

    The Davos organisers have sent a message about who they think are the economic “adults”.
    On the day of Abbott. Iran, Israel, Australia and the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
    Today it is Bill Gates, the German finance minister, the President of the European Central Bank ,the Brazilian president , the governor of the Bank of Japan, John Kerry, Nouriel Roubini ,Cameron and Al Gore, to name but a few.

  26. Aguirre
    A major press conference, Start Up Europe, on ‘developing global champions for Europe’ started five minutes after Abbott began his – um -‘address’. But even so, all countries send more than one delegate to Davos so everything of value gets covered. If Abbott’s mumblings were thought to have any importance the hall would have been full. The fact that everyone evacuated as he began to speak says it all – the rest of the world knows what he is and tno-one is interested.

  27. The Tasmanian election wouldn’t have anything to do with this move would it? The Abbott government wouldn’t be happy to see World Heritage listed forests destroyed for political gain – would they? Why not? This mob are happy to start a war with Indonesia to save their filthy boats policy so why not go for a bit of environmental vandalism as well if it wins votes.

    Greg Hunt seeks to wind back World Heritage protection for Tasmanian forests

    Environment Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed for the first time that the Abbott government will formally seek to wind back World Heritage listing of Tasmania’s forests, less than a year after it was approved.

    Mr Hunt said the government would meet an upcoming World Heritage Committee deadline to propose a boundary change to the 170,000-hectare extension agreed by the committee last June………………………….
    But the Liberal Party campaigned successfully in Tasmania at the last federal election on a wind-back of the extension

  28. What was striking was not so much the woodenness of the puppet but the emptiness of the chairs on the stage, the diffidence, boredom even, of the lone sitter, and the audience stark in its shadowy single-row sparseness to which the puppet spoke. It was an audience, one can be sure, of the travelling press from his own country dutifully attending, with at most a sprinkling of minor local functionaries obliged by protocol to lend some token presence. Bizarre, really, the way they sat there in the gloom silent and faceless and still while the puppet spoke and smacked his lips and moved his hands up and down .

  29. leonetwo

    The fact that everyone evacuated as he began to speak

    Which meaning of the term “evacuated” did you have in mind ? 😉

  30. I can offer The Pub one tiny bit of good news this morning.

    Me mum has been accepted as the incoming tenant of a rather nice unit across the road from moi’s place.

  31. The ABC reports Abbott’s mutterings as ‘a keynote address’ as if it was really, really important. It was a minor speech in an unimportant time slot given out of courtesy to a visiting nonentity. No-one cared about it except the media and they were paid to be there.

    We all know that even the class dunce is given an occasional award at the weekly school assembly because absolutely everyone has to get an award at some time. Special awards for doing nothing much are created so these kids won’t feel left out. Same thing with Abbott at Davos. He was given the ‘Well done for empying the bin so carefully’ award.

    I tried to watch the video, I lasted until the first lip smack and gave up.

    The Idiot will have a chat with the British and Israeli leaders before he leaves. Wow, really mixing it with the big boys there. He has already offended the rest of the world’s leaders, he might as well go for the whole lot.

  32. Excellent news, fiona. You’ll be able to hang your washing from your window to your mum’s and vice-versa; also have a chat from window to window …

  33. Don’t tell me Morriscum is nobbling the cricket. This could mean war with the poms.

    Immigration forces England cricket writers to leave tour early

    THREE of their cricketers abandoned the Ashes tour and now three senior English cricket reporters must follow them home because of bizarre Australian immigration regulations

    While it might be assumed the trio would be relieved to leave a tour during which England has failed to notch up a single win over Australia, they insist they are frustrated and annoyed at not being able to finish the job they came to do.

    John Etheridge of The Sun, Paul Newman of the Daily Mail and Dean Wilson of The Mirror have battled with bureaucracy since arriving on the 100-day Australian tour.

    They were issued with 90-day visas and have tried ever since to get an extension to cover the remaining one-day and T20 games, but with no luck.

    Yesterday, the trio were told that they would have to leave.

    Cricket Australia lobbied on behalf of the reporters but to no avail

  34. BSABob,
    I like Thompson’s work, though I haven’t read him for a long time. He has a very free-wheeling style, using long flowing strings of phrases piled up on each other, and this use of hyperbole and rhetoric as a new type of journalism has been a huge influence on many. He tends to over glorify machismo behaviour, and extreme narcissism, so in a sense you could accuse him of sentimentality in this regard. He’s a brilliant writer at his best. Here’s an excerpt from Hells Angels:

    California, Labor Day weekend . . . early, with ocean fog still in the streets, outlaw motorcyclists wearing chains, shades and greasy Levis roll out from damp garages, all-night diners and cast-off one-night pads in Frisco, Hollywood, Berdoo and East Oakland, heading for the Monterey peninsula, north of Big Sur . . . The Menace is loose again, the Hell’s Angels, the hundred-carat headline, running fast and loud on the early morning freeway, low in the saddle, nobody smiles, jamming crazy through traffic and ninety miles an hour down the center stripe, missing by inches . . . like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with a fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter’s leg with no quarter asked and none given; show the squares some class, give em a whiff of those kicks they’ll never know . . . Ah, these righteous dudes, they love to screw it on . . . Little Jesus, the Gimp, Chocolate George, Buzzard, Zorro, Hambone, Clean Cut, Tiny, Terry the Tramp, Frenchy, Mouldy Marvin, Mother Miles, Dirty Ed, Chuck the Duck, Fat Freddy, Filthy Phil, Charger Charley the Child Molester, Crazy Cross, Puff, Magoo, Animal and at least a hundred more . . . tense for the action, long hair in the wind, beards and bandanas flapping, earrings, armpits, chain whips, swastikas and stripped-down Harleys flashing chrome as traffic on 101 moves over, nervous, to let the formation pass like a burst of dirty thunder . . .

  35. Abbott better have a word or two with HoJo about the addiction to borrowing- but of course our media is silent.

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