The New South Wales police have used sophisticated hacking software to monitor the phones and computers of Australians, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.
In a new cache published on Monday NSW police are listed as a client of Gamma International, a German company that develops powerful spyware to remotely monitor computer use.
The documents show that NSW police have used several of the company’s spy programs for a number of investigations at a cost of more than $2m.
The software – known as FinSpy (or FinFisher) – allows widespread access to computer records, including extracting files from hard drives, grabbing images of computer screens, full Skype monitoring, logging keystrokes and monitoring email and chat communications.
“When FinSpy (FinFisher) is installed on a computer system it can be remotely controlled and accessed as soon as it is connected to the internet/network, no matter where in the world the target system is based,” earlier documentation published by WikiLeaks said.
In NSW the police can apply for a special type of covert search warrant that would allow police to monitor computers remotely. The warrants are obtained from an “eligible judge” of the supreme court who is able to grant warrants.
The computer access possible under the program is extensive. In one communication with the software developers, a NSW police officer writes that there are risks that sensitive information – such as privileged communication with a lawyer – could be caught by the program.
Due to law restrictions on how certain information obtained … is it possible to implement a categorisation feature that can show categories for certain information ? For instance. A key logger captures information which is between a lawyer and a known criminal which is not an offense in itself.
“The captured information needs to be able to be identified as legal privilege and not used in any further intelligence capability as it is considered private. There are other categories that may come up so it would be useful if the categories could be implemented at the user level rather than hard coded by Gamma.”
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the WikiLeaks revelations were deeply concerning.
“Information that should be privileged, including communications with a lawyer or information that’s well beyond the scope of the warrant, is almost certainly being captured by this warrant. It looks as if the police don’t have systems to exclude it, and it’s deeply troubling.”
He also said the documents highlighted the need for a public interest monitor in NSW to ensure there was sufficient scrutiny over the warrant process.
“There’s obviously a significant flaw in a system which has no public scrutiny of it and nobody there testing the case, with the evidence only put forward by the police. It’s not the role of the judge to test the evidence, so the hearings just have one side of the argument put forward.
“We should have a public interest monitor that appears in these proceedings to do just that – to be there as an independent third party testing the police evidence, and that’s an office we’ve been calling for [for] some time now.”
Despite the substantial costs associated with the program, there appear to be no online tender records of Gamma International or any of its subsidiaries holding contracts with the NSW police.
A spokesman for NSW police said: “Given this technology relates to operational capability, it’s not appropriate to comment.”
WikiLeaks - FinSpy Brochure: https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles/files/0/299_GAMMA-201110-FinFisher_Product_Portfolio-en.pdf
IP’s to Block: http://sokosensei.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/updated-list-of-ips-that-you-should-block/
John Howard has questioned the Coalition’s decision to launch two royal commissions in its first year in government, saying that the process shouldn’t be used for “narrow targeted political purposes”.
A royal commission into the home insulation scheme has already concluded, while another royal commission, into unions, is underway.
Howard told the Australian: “I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision on which the public has already delivered a verdict.
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes. I think the special prosecutions in the US are appalling.”
Four young men died during work provided by the home insulation scheme in 2009 and 2010. The previous Labor government introduced the scheme as a way to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.
The home insulation royal commission cost about $25m and followed several previous coronial and Senate inquiries into the matter. The commission questioned former prime minister Kevin Rudd about the scheme’s roll-out, with the subsequent report finding that the program was seriously flawed.
“I am uneasy about those approaches,” Howard said. “I have to say I’m not happy about that but that’s a decision the government makes and, after all, the former government was tipped out on the strength of, among other things, the failure of the home insulation scheme. There has been coronial investigations.”
Howard is the latest former prime minister to question how the Coalition is handling the royal commission process. Earlier this year, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke expressed concern that the government would break a long-standing convention of cabinet confidentiality by handing certain documents over to the home insulation royal commission.
Last week, Julia Gillard, yet another previous prime minister, gave evidence at the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption. Gillard was questioned at length about regularly repeated allegations that she used money from a union slush fund to make renovations to her home in the 1990s.
Labor has accused the government of using the royal commissions as part of an ideological witch-hunt against the previous administration. Mark Dreyfus, the shadow attorney general, told Guardian Australia that Howard’s view on the use of royal commissions is telling.
“Establishing legal inquiries for political purposes is an abuse of power,” he said. “Royal commissions serve our community well – the child abuse royal commission is a good example of that. But we have had two inquiries set up for primarily political purposes.
“The union commission is very much a pursuit of a political vendetta. My concern about the home insulation royal commission is that millions of dollars was spent investigating something that has already been investigated eight times.
“I’ve been appalled by both. When you have a former prime minister criticising this kind of abuse of power, it would surely make the Abbott government think again before using a royal commission for political purposes.”
Dreyfus insisted that he had no intention of pursuing a similar strategy if Labor won the next election and he became attorney general again.
“I’ve received a lot of mail that says Labor should use royal commissions in this way,” he said. “I would hope no future Labor government would do so.”
Article: Oliver Milman
Photograph: Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images
Publisher: The Guardian
Emails show Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, proposed to use question time to showcase claims by Brickworks chief executive Lindsay Partridge. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
BY NEIL CHENOWETH (The Australian Financial Review)
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, has been revealed as the mystery Liberal Party figure involved in an email exchange Liberal Party lawyers sought to have suppressed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
In the emails, dated March 1, 2011, Ms Credlin proposes to use question time to showcase claims by Brickworks chief executive Lindsay Partridge, after Liberal NSW fundraiser Paul Nicolaou described Mr Partridge to her as “a very good supporter of the party”.
The emails show Mr Abbott’s office working with Mr Partridge and Brickworks for Mr Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax, at a time when senior federal Liberals would have been aware Brickworks, a prohibited donor, had channelled funds to the NSW Liberals through the Free Enterprise Foundation.
Ms Credlin’s husband, Brian Loughnane, the federal director of the Liberal Party, was copied in on emails on July 30 2010 about a $50,000 donation to the NSW branch by Brickworks which was subsequently paid via the Free Enterprise Foundation, together with $100,000 to the federal party, for the federal election.
Counsel assisting ICAC Geoffrey Watson, SC, said on Thursday “we’ve been threatened” with a Supreme Court action to suppress the emails after concerns were raised by Robert Newlinds, SC, the counsel for former assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. “I think it’s not coming from Senator Sinodinos, it was coming from the Liberal Party,” Mr Watson said.
“I just don’t want this to get out,” Mr Newlinds said, in asking for a suppression order not only on the page but also the legal argument about the order.
The emails had been published on the ICAC website on Thursday morning before they were withdrawn three hours later.
The suppression order was lifted by commissioner Megan Latham after the lawyers for the House of Representative Speaker Bronwyn Bishop said they would not claim privilege over the documents.
NSW LIBERALS’ BIGGEST BACKER ICAC has already heard Brickworks was the NSW Liberal Party’s largest backer in the March 2011 state election, despite its work as a property developer making it a prohibited donor for NSW.
Liberals state finance director Simon McInnes has confirmed donations were made to the Free Enterprise Foundation in Canberra before being forwarded to the federal party with instructions they be forwarded to the NSW division, though he insisted they were used for the federal campaign.
The suppressed emails begin shortly after 2.52pm on March 1, 2011, when Mr Partridge forwarded to Mr Nicolaou an internal Brickworks email. The email, headed “Bunya estate off to a good start” included a Daily Telegraph article about the need to free up land for housing in western Sydney.
“Paul. This is what I was talking about,” Mr Partridge wrote. “I have written a price I will send you when I return. Best. Lindsay.”
Mr Nicolaou testified on Friday he was not aware Brickworks had a property development division (the division earned $29 million in fiscal 2011).
Four minutes later, Mr Partridge emailed Mr Nicolaou again: “Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax. We want certainty that there is no new tax. Thanks Lindsay.”
At 9.29 that night, Mr Nicolaou forwarded Mr Partridge’s second email to the federal opposition leader’s chief of staff: “Dear Peta, please note below from Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks the largest producer of bricks in Australia and a very good supporter of the party.”
Four minutes later Ms Credlin replied: “Paul, Lindsay provides a great line for Question Time. Do you have a number that I might be able to contact him on … it would be ideal for tomorrow cheers Peta.
A series of comments about Brickworks followed, in parliament and in press conferences by high-profile Liberals.
At 9.37pm, three minutes after Ms Credlin’s email, Mr Nicolaou replied with a phone number, copying to Mr Partridge: “Lindsay would be only too happy to help … Feel free to call him.”
In fact, Mr Partridge was in Europe on a business trip and did not reply until 1.15am Sydney time: “Paul/Peta. This is amazing I am in France and talking to a manager of a large roof tile maker … Under a carbon tax regime many products including cement production will move offshore. The others the price will just go up.”
With the difficulties of the time difference, the following day in question time Mr Abbott instead raised the case of a Canberra businessman “John Fragopoulos, who runs FishCo in Belconnen and who is already paying $3,000 a month for electricity to keep his small business going”.
Brickworks surfaced in parliament on March 24 in a speech by the Liberals’ shadow assistant treasurer, Mathias Cormann. “I was drawn to an article today which was published by AAP where Mr Partridge, Australia’s largest brick and tile maker, said the federal government’s carbon price proposals will add about 10 per cent to the cost of housing across Australia – 10 per cent,” Senator Cormann said.
Senator Cormann told The Australian Financial Review on Monday: “My comments in Parliament were based entirely on information which was in the public domain at that time and which supported the public policy arguments against the carbon tax we were pursuing at the time, namely that the carbon tax would push up the cost of living and the cost of doing business.
“I was not aware of any contact during that period between Brickworks and the then office of the Leader of the Opposition, which is not unusual, and to the best of my recollection have not myself had any contact with Brickworks either.”
On May 2 2011, Mr Abbott was at a factory in Melbourne for a press conference: “It’s good to be here at Austral Bricks [the subsidiary of Brickworks] … The company estimates that if a carbon tax comes in … that will add about 10 per cent to the cost of manufacturing bricks here in this country.”
On July 5, Nationals Senator Williams told the Senate: “Several of [Brickworks’] sites will become unsustainable and result in the loss of many jobs.”
And on September 14 Mr Abbott told parliament the carbon tax would provide “$2 million a year additional cost” for Austral Bricks.
The federal Liberal party would have been conscious of how Brickworks donations were channelled in 2010 through the Free Enterprise Foundation because of disputes over which branch would end up with the funds.
‘THE MONEY DIDN’T END UP THERE AT ALL’ Several emails about the Brickworks donations were copied to Senator Sinodinos and to Brian Loughnane, in July 2010.
“Via the diversionary organization [sic] there is $50K going to NSW,” Mr Partridge emailed Nicolaou on July 29 2010. He told ICAC he was referring to the Free Enterprise Foundation as the diversionary organisation.
While the July 29 exchange was not copied to federal officials, they were copied in on on July 30 when Mr Nicolaou emailed Michael Yabsley, the federal treasurer of the Liberal Party, about $50,000 that developer Harry Triguboff was donating via the Free Enterprise Foundation to be split between the state and federal parties for the federal campaign. This wasn’t the only money going into the Free Enterprise Foundation.
“In addition, I spoke to Lindsay Partridge from Brickworks last night and he is arranging for $100K to be EFT’d into the Federal Division bank account today with a further $150k to be distributed equally to NSW, Qld & WA for their respective federal campaigns,” Mr Nicolaou wrote, copying the email to Senator Sinodinos and and Brian Loughnane.
Mr Yabsley replied an hour later, also copied to Sinodinos and Loughnane, “The Brickworks donation is subject to discussions but certainly the reference to the contribution to NSW is correct.”
Mr Partridge wasn’t happy: “Giving money to the Liberal Party was like giving a hot chip to a bunch of seagulls, the seagull that’s got the chip in his mouth doesn’t necessarily get to eat it,” he told ICAC last week.
Mr Partridge said he had been “quite annoyed”, because he had intended to give $50,000 to the state Liberal branches in Western Australia, Queensland and NSW, and $100,000 to the federal division.
Brickworks’ property arm had rezoning applications looming in the three states.
“But the money didn’t end up there at all,” Mr Partridge said. Instead $100,000 was paid directly to the federal party, with $150,000 going to the Free Enterprise Foundation, with $50,000 of this going the NSW party, with the federal party holding on to the rest.
This appears to have been an allocation decided by federal officials after discussions.
Brickworks donated another $130,000 to NSW Liberals plus $50,000 coming from its associated company, Washington H. Soul Pattinson, in November-December 2010, with no reference to the federal campaign.
Mr McInnes and Mr Nicolaou have said they believed it was legal for money from prohibited donors to be channelled to the FEF and then back to the state party, but they had never sought legal advice on this.
On July 23, Colin Gracie of the Liberals’ federal secretariat emailed Mr McInnes: “Brian Loughnane has agreed that for the time being, the Fed Sec will operate on the policy set out in the attachment. In effect, there is no benefit for a NSW donor to donate via the Fed Sec, unless they are a property developer.”
Mr McInnes emailed state director Mark Neeham on August 7, 2010: “There have been $95,000 of donations made via the Free Enterprise Foundation that will be directed to the federal division with instruction from them to pay to us.”
Mr McInnes confirmed at ICAC the federal division was part of the scheme for funds to go through the Free Enterprise Foundation to the federal party then be forwarded back to the state party. But he said that the state used the money for federal campaigns.
Mr Partridge appeared to have high expectations of the level of access Brickworks’ donation bought him.
When invited to dinner with Mr Abbott in July 2010 (which was later cancelled), he wrote, “Will I get a photo with Tony like I got from John Howard[?] I will be wanting to talk about all my employees on AWAs [Australian Workplace Agreements] who are now stuck and don’t want to be unionised.”
On March 15, 2011, two weeks after the Credlin emails, Mr Partridge wrote to Mr Nicolaou: “A couple of people have said to me we should get rid of the cartoon ad, as it is infantile and is demeaning to the Liberals. If you could pass the comment on. Ta. Lindsay.”
Mr Nicolaou promptly forwarded this email to state director Mark Neeham: “Dear Mark, please note our biggest supporters’ comments below.”
Have you ever experienced a more heartless politician? Some may argue (rightly so) that Morrison is more heartless. Some may also argue that the whole LNP Ideology is heartless. I have no answer for why the LNP are intent on creating a heartless society. But intent they are.
It doesn’t seem to matter to the LNP however many people march in the streets against this unnecessary budget. The LNP continues in it’s unwanted ideology against all opposition.
It matters not that leading economists have cast doubts over ‘budget emergency’ claims.
“SAUL ESLAKE: The truth in my view is that the budget deficit in prospect for 2014/15, prior to this week, was 2 per cent of GDP with public debt in the range of 14 per cent of GDP. That’s worse than it should have been; that’s worse than the previous government had let on, but it hardly amounted to a crisis or an emergency.”
“SAUL ESLAKE: The real problem that the Government inherited was the sharp increase in the budget deficits and in spending in 2017/18, the year after the forward estimates of the last Labor budget and, correctly in my view, most of the thrust of the measures in the budget are directed at the period 2017/18 and beyond. That’s where the problem was.”
Who is Saul Eslake? He is Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist.
All that matters is that many thousands of Australians are going to be hurt with this outrageously unnecessary, unwanted, and totally heartless budget.
The blame cannot be simply levelled towards Tony Abbott either. The whole LNP support this ideological stance.
A Royal Commission into Political Parties needs to be held in this country. Terms of reference should simply be “Corruption”.
Everybody knows that the Left and the Right of politics would be undone by a Royal Commission into political corruption.
Perhaps political parties would need to be held accountable for their actions and their members would need to be fined for each day of sitting unlawfully. (as per the Australian Constitution)
“44. Any person who - (v.) Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:
shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”
and the penalty?
“46. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any person declared by this Constitution to be incapable of sitting as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives shall, for every day on which he so sits, be liable to pay the sum of one hundred pounds to any person who sues for it in any court of competent jurisdiction.”
So every citizen of Australia should sue each member of parliament that is also a member of a political party..
Lets see how that works out for them..