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Westlake Legal Group > Australia

Australia’s Fires Test Its Winning Growth Formula

Westlake Legal Group 13oz-econ-facebookJumbo Australia’s Fires Test Its Winning Growth Formula Wildfires Politics and Government Mines and Mining International Trade and World Market Greenhouse Gas Emissions Economic Conditions and Trends Defense and Military Forces Coal China Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a conservative leader and political ally of President Trump, came to power in part by defending the mining industry. He sees action on global warming as a substantial threat to an industry that directly employs 250,000 Australians and contributes to the jobs of many more.

The fires have prompted a national discussion about climate change and the country’s economy. In addition to the personal harm and environmental damage caused by the fires, they have also taken a toll on tourism, another essential industry for the Australian economy. Already, Mr. Morrison’s standing in public opinion polls is slumping over his handling of the wildfires.

The fires “are going to have a massive impact politically,” said Peter Drysdale, a professor emeritus at the Australian National University who is one of the country’s most famous economists, and who has barely left his home in Canberra lately because of heavy smoke outside. “Only the most insensitive political system could not respond to this.”

Curbing Australia’s coal dependence would require tinkering with one of the world’s most successful economies.

Australia has not had a recession for almost three decades. While economic growth is slowing, with the retail and construction industries faltering, the mining industry remains a bright spot.

The Australian mining and energy industries have long benefited from China’s spectacular growth. China accounts for almost two-fifths of Australia’s exports. A vast fleet of vessels carries coal from northeastern Australia and iron ore and liquefied natural gas from northwestern Australia to Chinese ports.

Coal narrowly trails iron ore as Australia’s biggest export, with liquefied natural gas following close behind. Australia’s combined exports of the three natural resources work out to nearly 7,300 Australian dollars, or almost $5,000, a year for every adult and child in the country, giving broad political influence to the mining industry.

Still, the wildfires are only one factor forcing many Australians to question how long this economic formula will last.

Some worry that Australia has become too dependent on China at a time when the United States is pressuring allies to keep some distance. On the military front, China has become increasingly assertive in the eastern Pacific Ocean. China has built the world’s largest navy. It has established close relations with Australia’s neighbors in the South Pacific. And it has constructed air bases on an archipelago of artificial islands across the South China Sea.

At home, Australian voters have also become increasingly concerned about the growing influence of Chinese money in the country’s political scene.

“Our economy is vitally dependent on China, and yet our security ties are with the U.S., and our economy is vitally dependent on fossil fuels, and yet our landscape is relatively exposed to climate change,” Chris Richardson, the chief Australia economist at Deloitte, said.

Shifting the world’s 14th-largest economy would be no easy task, no matter how much the government might do.

Australia not only burns coal to generate most of its own electricity but also exports nearly $40 billion a year of the fuel, mainly to Japan, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan. Though China is by far Australia’s largest trading partner, Japan has long been its largest coal customer.

Opinion surveys in Australia over the years have found sizable majorities who favor action on climate change. But as in the United States with the Electoral College, Australia’s political system gives greater influence to some regions of the country than others. One beneficiary is the state of Queensland, in the country’s northeast.

Queensland is Australia’s main coal-producing state. It played a key role last May, when Mr. Morrison led his center-right coalition to an unexpected election victory.

Beyond the domestic political forces, global climate pacts give Australia little reason to curb exports. Deals like the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris agreement in 2015 required countries to focus on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases within their own borders. But these pacts have not restricted international trade in natural resources.

The question instead in Australia has been the extent to which the country might use taxes and other policies to wean itself from its dependence on coal for domestic energy use. An electricity grid that mainly uses coal, as well as long driving distances in the vast country that require a lot of gasoline, have given Australia one of the world’s highest average levels of greenhouse gas emissions per person.

Pressure will grow to do something. Estimates of the cost of damage from the fires have ranged from about $3 billion, or 4.4 billion Australian dollars, to $3.5 billion. Mr. Richardson, of Deloitte, estimated that one in 10,000 homes in Australia had been damaged.

The fires have also called attention to the vulnerability of Australia’s vital tourism industry. Tourism spending exceeds the combined value of Australia’s annual exports of iron ore, coal and natural gas. Australians themselves account for about three quarters of that spending.

The tourism industry has not been broadly hit by the wildfires so far because conflagrations have mainly occurred in smaller communities. But the smoke that has at times clogged the air over Sydney and Melbourne could take a toll. The fires could have a much broader economic effect if they damage public confidence and make Australians more cautious about spending money, Mr. Richardson said.

At some favorite tourist sites, people who depend on the natural beauty of the land worry that the fires may threaten their way of life.

Jervis Bay, a resort town between Sydney and Canberra on Australia’s southeastern coast, usually boasts beaches of soft white sand and seawater of crystalline clarity. On a recent visit, smoke shrouded the landscape, and the water was murky.

Business owners with fridges full for the summer season worry about the future.

Niel Badenhorst, a cafe owner, said that since the blazes broke out after Christmas, sales were down a quarter. The period around Christmas and January was normally peak season, he said.

“I was worried if the power goes I would have high losses,” Mr. Badenhorst said, adding that the cafe’s refrigerators were full of food that would spoil if extensive nearby power failures spread to his community and persisted.

“I hope it will open some people’s eyes,” he said of the government’s inaction on climate change. He mentioned wind turbines that he recently saw lined up along Germany’s coast, and asked, “Why can’t we do that in Australia?”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bob Seeley: Why the Government should listen to our allies and say: no way, Huawei

Bob Seely is the MP for the Isle of Wight. He is standing to be Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

I am delighted that this Government is both unashamedly patriotic and positive about Britain’s future and our alliances. Yet Huawei presents a threat to those alliances, as is being reported this weekend.

Huawei involvement in the roll-out of UK’s 5G network is an extraordinarily important issue. Sadly, there has been little public or Parliamentary scrutiny. US officials are in town this week in a last-ditch attempt to win UK support for their position on Huawei. They want us to say no to it.

The Fifth Generation Cellular Communications network – 5G – will be a key part of our critical national infrastructure. The US is concerned that, amongst other issues, Chinese involvement in our 5G network will damage security relationships with our closest allies, especially the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ network: US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

In this instance, the US is absolutely right. We need to listen to them and other allies such as Australia. Both have banned Chinese high-tech from their 5G networks. We need to do the same to support our Western alliances and to protect our security, our people and our values.

The blunt reality is that China is a cyber risk and will remain so for years. It has a dreadful reputation for cyberattacks and intellectual property theft against Western and global institutions and firms. Huawei itself has been the subject of a US investigation for fraud and commercial espionage. In general, China is becoming more adversarial internationally and less tolerant of dissent domestically.

Sadly, the debate over Huawei is marked by dangerous levels of misunderstanding.

For example, Huawei argues that it is a private firm. In no meaningful sense is this correct. Huawei is to all intents and purposes part of the Chinese state. Allowing Huawei to build a significant role in our 5G network is effectively allowing China and the Chinese agencies access to it. To say otherwise is simply false.

It’s argued that Huawei will enable wider market provision. In reality, it’s the opposite. China openly seeks to dominate global comms. The risk is that in the next ten-to-20 years almost all Western providers such as Ericsson and Nokia will be put out of business by Chinese high-tech firms backed by tens of billions in state credit.

It’s also claimed that Huawei will be limited to the fringe of the 5G network. Untrue, say many experts. The difference between ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ does not exist in 5G to anything like the same extent as 4G. Antennas, for example, will not be ‘dumb’ bits of kit but an advanced combination of hardware and software. To be in the 5G system anywhere will be to be in the system. The assessment of technical experts from the US and other states is that the risks of allowing Chinese telecommunications equipment anywhere in 5G networks cannot be fully mitigated, despite laughable no-spy pledges.

Rob Strayer, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, has said any role for Huawei in 5G infrastructure poses an “unacceptable risk.” He has said: “If countries put unsecure and untrusted vendors into their 5G networks, in any place, we’re letting countries know that we’re going to have to consider the risk that that produces to our information-sharing arrangements with them.”

We need to build up alliances, not risk them.

There are powerful moral and ethical arguments against the use of Chinese firms. Huawei has an intimate relationship with the Chinese military and security services. China is using big data and Artificial Intelligence to build a surveillance state. In Xinjiang province, China has built the most advanced human monitoring system that the world has ever known; an actual, virtual Orwellian state.

We need public debate. The Australian Government did just that, initiating months of discussion before deciding de facto to exclude Chinese firms in its 5G network – despite pressure from Beijing and a far greater dependency on trade with their Pacific neighbour than we will ever have.

There is still time for the UK. Some members of the Cabinet and backbench MPs are privately concerned. But this issue is so new and the risks not yet fully understood that I fear we are sleepwalking into a decision we will regret in the years and decades to come.

We need to pause, and then decide to work with our Five Eyes and European and international partners to initiate new rules on privacy, high-tech co-operation and cyber laws that protect our citizens and our societies. We need to follow Australia’s example and have a wide-ranging public consultation.

We need international agreement on a common ‘trusted vendor’ status and agree that only those vendors can become primary contractors for our 5G – and for our critical national infrastructure in general. Trusted vendors would be defined as those coming from states that respect the rule of law, individual human rights, privacy and intellectual property. This rules out, de facto, high-tech from one-party states whose legal and political systems are very different from our own.

Whoever becomes chair of the Foreign or Intelligence and Security Select Committees needs to pledge to open immediate investigations into the suitability of Huawei and whether it can be seen in any sense as a ‘trusted vendor’.

We need good relations with China; there is no question about this. It is going to be a very significant voice in the next century. But we do not need to be making the world safe for its brand of surveillance authoritarianism or risking our collective and individual security. And with Chinese firms, there is risk. We have a right and a responsibility to protect our nation, our people and our values.

This Government is intent on putting our national interest first. Agreed; let’s do it. Let’s listen to Australia, the US and say “no way, Huawei”.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate

Westlake Legal Group 08oz-disinformation-1-facebookJumbo How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate Wildfires News and News Media Murdoch, Rupert Morrison, Scott (1968- ) Fires and Firefighters Australia

WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.”

The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.

And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”

News Corp denied playing such a role. “Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”

Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lackluster response to the fires. They argue that the company and the coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible — together, as a team — for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation.

Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr. Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December.

In late December, the Oz, as the News Corp-owned paper is known here, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr. Taylor on New Year’s Eve.

Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page 4 on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.

Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr. Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Mr. Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals” — slang for unkempt country hobos.

As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about the Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique.

But a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen.

The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so.

Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox.

Even fire officials report that most of the off-season burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change.

Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian. It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”

It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned.

“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny D. Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.

Timothy Graham, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who conducted the study of Twitter accounts exaggerating the role of arson in Australia’s fires, said media companies also needed to be cognizant of the disinformation ecosystem and stop contributing to the problem. That includes mainstream outlets, like ABC News, sharing inaccurate maps that exaggerate the reach of the fires.

But in the case of the arson issue, he said, scores of bots and trolls — many of which previously posted support for President Trump — have joined conservative media like the Murdoch outlets in promoting the idea that Australia’s fires are not a “climate emergency” but an “arson emergency.”

“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said.

Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has. Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.

“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.

But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway — at least in terms of what people make a priority. Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more backburning.

Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.

“I don’t think it’s climate change,” she said.

Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting from Bairnsdale, Australia.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate

Westlake Legal Group 08oz-disinformation-1-facebookJumbo How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate Wildfires News and News Media Murdoch, Rupert Morrison, Scott (1968- ) Fires and Firefighters Australia

WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.”

The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.

And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”

News Corp denied playing such a role. “Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”

Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lackluster response to the fires. They argue that the company and the coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible — together, as a team — for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation.

Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr. Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December.

In late December, the Oz, as the News Corp-owned paper is known here, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr. Taylor on New Year’s Eve.

Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page 4 on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.

Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr. Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Mr. Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals” — slang for unkempt country hobos.

As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about the Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique.

But a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen.

The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so.

Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox.

Even fire officials report that most of the off-season burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change.

Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian. It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”

It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned.

“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny D. Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.

Timothy Graham, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who conducted the study of Twitter accounts exaggerating the role of arson in Australia’s fires, said media companies also needed to be cognizant of the disinformation ecosystem and stop contributing to the problem. That includes mainstream outlets, like ABC News, sharing inaccurate maps that exaggerate the reach of the fires.

But in the case of the arson issue, he said, scores of bots and trolls — many of which previously posted support for President Trump — have joined conservative media like the Murdoch outlets in promoting the idea that Australia’s fires are not a “climate emergency” but an “arson emergency.”

“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said.

Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has. Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.

“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.

But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway — at least in terms of what people make a priority. Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more backburning.

Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.

“I don’t think it’s climate change,” she said.

Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting from Bairnsdale, Australia.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

David Snoxell: Will this New Year see a resolution of the Chagos tragedy?

David Snoxell is Co-ordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group.

The Chagos Archipelago was excised in 1965 from Mauritius before independence, and its 1,500 inhabitants deported between 1968-73.

For the last five decades the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) has prevented the Chagossians from returning to their islands in the Indian Ocean, and has denied them the right of abode. It has resisted both political and legal attempts at promoting a resolution of the issues.

The Queen’s Speech announced an integrated security, defence and foreign policy review focussing on the UK’s international role, post Brexit. Will this review include policy towards the Chagos Islands and the exiled Chagossians following the ICJ (International Court of Justice) Advisory Opinion last February? It found the UK in unlawful occupation of the Islands, demanded the UK return them as rapidly as possible to Mauritius and also that it cooperate in facilitating the resettlement of Chagossians.

In May, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) endorsed the Opinion, and set a deadline for implementation of 22 November 2019. It was ignored by Her Majesty’s Government. In 20 years of national and international litigation these are the latest challenges to UK sovereignty and Chagossian resettlement.

The UK is isolated in the UN on this issue. Now that it is on the UN General Assembly agenda it will continue to dog British diplomacy. Litigation, which began in 1999, continues in the Court of Appeal. The case could again reach the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court (ICC) given that expulsion of a people is akin to a crime against humanity.

On 27 December, the BBC quoted the Mauritian PM as saying that he was exploring the possibility of bringing charges of crimes against humanity against individual officials at the ICC. This is not an idle threat. FCO needs to be conscious of the risk it runs by continuing to ignore the will of the ICJ and the international community.

Support for Mauritius and the Chagossians was in the Labour Party and Scottish National Party manifestos. During the debate on the Queen’s Speech on 19 December, Patrick Grady, the SNP Chief Whip, and a Vice Chairman of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, referred to the Government “ignoring rulings of the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice on the Chagos Islands”.

I expect the APPG to be re-established later in January, and to take up where it left off at its last meeting on 17 July 2019. At that meeting the Group issued a statement urging the next government “to respect the will of the United Nations, the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the requirements of international law, which from the signature of the UN Charter in 1945 remains the keystone of the UK’s foreign policy and commitment to international order based on the rule of law”.

The UN Secretary General is expected to report early next year to the UNGA on the implementation of its resolution. The Mauritian Prime Minister will be in the UK for the UK/African Investment Summit on 20 January, which will be hosted by the British Prime Minister. This would provide an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss Chagos and set the ball rolling for more detailed talks.

Mr Johnson has some experience of Chagos. As Foreign Secretary he had a meeting with the previous Mauritian PM at the UN in September 2016 at which he is reported to have said that he would “fix it” if Mauritius held off tabling the proposed UNGA resolution. It therefore seems likely that he will want to settle the issues.

In the UNGA debate, the UK suggested that Mauritius cannot be relied upon when it comes to the security and operations of the US base, without providing any evidence to support this claim.

For several years the Mauritian Government has confirmed, as Prime Minister Jugnauth did on 21 November in a statement to the National Assembly, that “it fully recognises the importance of the military base in Diego Garcia and will take no action that will impede its continuing operation”.

Moreover, Mauritius has made clear to the United States that it stands ready to enter into a long-term arrangement in respect of Diego Garcia.” Under the 1966 UK/US agreement BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) was made available for the defence purposes of both nations and extended for 20 years in 2016. It comes to an end in 2036, but there is nothing to stop both parties amending that agreement and entering into new arrangements with Mauritius well before then.

The Indian Ocean could become an area of competing political and security influence. India and China have an increasing interest, as does Australia. The US and the UK maintain that the defence role of Diego Garcia remains crucial. However, there is to be a scrutiny of the Ministry of Defence and its expenditure. If the UK were to divest itself of Chagos it could reduce in excess of £10m off its annual defence and FCO budgets, and free up for other duties the 40-50 service personnel stationed on Diego.

It would be rash to predict what might happen in 2020. What can safely be said is that the current alignment of events makes 2020 a propitious year to bring about an overall settlement of the issues. It would be irrational for any government that believes in the peaceful settlement of disputes, the rule of law, and human rights to find any further excuses not to negotiate a settlement. It must be in the UK national interest to do so, especially now the UK is in search of a new role in the world, following withdrawal from the EU and the uncertainty of our special relationship with the US.

To continue to ignore Chagos will have implications for the UK’s role and permanent seat on the Security Council, as happened in November 2017 when for the first time the UK judge on the ICJ failed to be re-elected. For a founding member of the UN and ICJ it would be humiliating to lose our seat on the Security Council and relegate the UK to a minor part on the international stage.

The government must bring an end to this humanitarian tragedy, which continues to undermine our reputation for upholding the rule of law and human rights. We cannot preach to other governments what we are unwilling to do ourselves. And we cannot afford further litigation and international isolation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Shorthouse and Anvar Sarygulov: We need more migrants to become citizens

Ryan Shorthouse is Director of Bright Blue and Anvar Sarygulov is a Researcher at Bright Blue.

The public debate on immigration is dominated by the number of people entering and leaving Britain. However, very little attention is paid to the final step of a journey for many who decide to make UK their home: obtaining British citizenship. Boosting citizenship rates, which have fallen this decade, could be part of an agenda by Boris Johnson to bolster an inclusive post-Brexit Britishness.

Substantively, the only difference between migrants with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which grants migrants a right to reside in the UK permanently after five years, and British citizens is the right to vote. However, there are several positive effects that derive from citizenship that have been underdiscussed and underutilised.

Research from both Britain and overseas shows that citizenship benefits immigrants themselves in a variety of ways. It is associated with improving employment prospects, with a greater feeling of belonging and security, and with higher rates of political participation. Furthermore, adopting citizenship is a significant symbolic commitment, reaffirming the place of that individual in Britain and making them more invested in our past, present and future.

Eighty-four per cent of the British public say it is important for migrants to be committed to the way of life in Britain to be able to come and live here. As research by British Future has shown, native Britons prefer it when migrants settle in the country for the long term and integrate. There is no better way to achieve it than by ensuring that more migrants obtain citizenship. By ensuring that more migrants become British citizens, it might even be possible to alleviate some public concerns around migration.

That does not mean that we should give out citizenship to anyone. Considering its significance, it is understandable to expect that those wishing to adopt it must meet specific criteria. Those wishing to become citizens of the UK already must prove that they have sufficient knowledge of English and of life in the UK and that they are of good character. These long-standing criteria should not be significantly relaxed.

The number of non-EU migrants who were granted citizenship decreased significantly from 189,000 in 2013 to 105,000 in 2018. Though some of this decrease is accounted by the decline in net migration that occurred in early 2010s, the data suggests that an increasing number of non-EU migrants do not obtain citizenship.

However, the number of EU migrants who are becoming citizens is now increasing due to Brexit. And with 930,000 EU nationals already being granted Settled Status, which allows them to apply for naturalisation within a year, there will be a much greater number of migrants eligible for citizenship in the near future.

There are existing barriers to citizenship that are unreasonable and unnecessary. Chief among them is the exorbitant cost. Obtaining ILR for one person costs £2,389. Meanwhile, the subsequent naturalisation fee for adults is £1,330, following a sustained rise in fees, with the cost now being 49 per cent higher in real terms than in 2010. In comparison, the average naturalisation fee across Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Norway and Sweden is around £225. Furthermore, the actual cost of processing a naturalisation application to the Home Office is only £372, highlighting that the Government is now excessively profiteering from applicants.

Citizenship should be encouraged, not discouraged. The high costs prevent many hard-working individuals and families, who have contributed to our economy and communities for years, from fully putting down roots and becoming citizens of the UK. The Government should rectify this by mean-testing citizenship fees to enable everyone who wants to, and are eligible to, become a British citizen. Considering the prohibitive prices and the large profit margin, the mean-testing system should be generous and provide relief to the majority of applicants.

Particular attention should be brought to the naturalisation fee for children, which at £1,012 does not lag far behind the adult one. Considering the importance of citizenship, it is absurd to discourage citizenship amongst those who have been here from birth, who have been educated in British schools and who have been brought up in Britain by subjecting them and their families to an obscene cost. Indeed, the High Court recently ruled this fee for children to be unlawful. The Government should abolish naturalisation fees for children who were born in the UK.

Considering the benefits of citizenship, we should not only remove undue financial barriers to it, but financially incentivise it – through nudging long-term migrants towards it. Currently, thousands of migrants in the UK continue to stay here on an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for years, even though most of them can apply for citizenship 12 months after receiving permanent residency.

A simple measure would be to ask ILR applicants to signal their intention to apply for full British citizenship in their application in return for a future significant discount on citizenship fees. A year later, they should receive a reminder they are eligible for this discounted citizenship, and be charged the discounted price in their application.

There is also room in the process to reward migrants who are doing what we expect good citizens to do: contributing to the economy through working and contributing to society through volunteering.

The Government should grant such civic-minded migrants a fast-track route to obtaining citizenship. For most visa routes, it takes five years before a migrant is eligible for ILR and an additional year before they are eligible for citizenship, but the ILR period should be decreased to three years for civically engaged migrants who promise to become a citizen 12 months later. Such migrants should have consistently paid National Insurance for three years, and have proof that they have volunteered with a school, community organisation or registered charity on a regular basis for a substantial number of hours over the past three years. A discount should also apply to the citizenship fee for those on this fast-track route.

Citizenship should play a much more significant role in the Conservative Government’s reforms to the immigration system. Doing so would improve social integration, enhance the contribution that migrants make, and allay public discontent over immigration. It will be a way of strengthening the image of an inclusive Britain after Brexit, which Boris is so eager to cultivate.

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Tom Tugendhat: The three foreign policy actions that Johnson should take now that he has this huge majority

Tom Tugendhat is MP for Tonbridge and Malling and is one of the leaders of the One Nation Group.

The moment a revolution happens is often only clear with hindsight. Last week’s landslide needs no time for review. It was a lightning bolt releasing an energy that has jolted Parliament and our country into action – and could kickstart new partnerships around the world.

For the first time in a political generation, the UK has a leader able to make a mark on the world. With a five-year term looking certain, a voice tested on the G7, the EU and NATO, and with the ability to legislate others can only dream of, Boris Johnson is positioned to achieve what he has previously only spoken about: Global Britain.

He now has the mandate to act to make this more than a slogan.

 Over the coming months many will focus – rightly – on the EU trade talks. They are going to determine much of the change that is coming to our economy and the relationships our businesses build with the world.

But despite its proximity and economic weight, it won’t be in Brussels that our future is written, but here in London. How we decide to act will shape our future.  

To harness the storm, there are three things we should do now.

The first is to build a new partnership of democratic powers. The creation of a new alliance of those orbiting between the might of the US or China would see mid-sized democratic nations – the Mid-Dems – defend the rule law and economic system that has made us largely prosperous and peaceful since the Second World War. As newly freed-spirits, we can lead a new way of working together. On defence, there is no doubt that our American alliance is the underpinning of our sovereignty, but on trade? That’s where China’s importance grows.

China poses its own challenges. We want closer trade relationships, but the absence of the rule of law, the undermining of civil liberties, the lack of respect for intellectual property and more, leaves little chance to freely exchange ideas and deepen relationships.

That’s why a networked alliance is what we should be looking for. Together with other Mid-Dem countries, such as  Australia, Chile, Germany, France, South Korea and Japan, we can build a partnership to defend the rules that have made us all stronger, working together on climate change, and protecting us all against the whims of powers more inclined to use leverage than law.

Working together would help reawaken many of the existing institutions. In the United Nations, for example, where the US has played less of a role than many of her allies would like, China has become dominant. Buying votes on UN bodies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation may not sound a good investment until you factor in the influence it has on UN members dependent on aid who will be voting in the upcoming ballot to lead the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

As companies like Vodafone know well, WIPO controls international use of frequencies that modern technology relies on, and sets the norms to prevent the IP thefts now normal in China. Beijing is slowly taking control of the existing international order as America steps away. We need to work with like-minded states to protect what matters and contain what doesn’t.

As well as new partnerships, we should join existing bodies, like the TPP.  Opening talks with the members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the new club of 11 states was recently renamed, would expand our horizons. Setting a new trade agenda without aiming for the harmonisation of the European Union will give us reach. Though the geography sounds distant, shipping costs are near historic lows, and our alliance with countries from Mexico to Japan, who have already invited us to join, would build on existing trading relationships and demonstrate to suitors that Britain has options.

That’s the only way we’ll get the deals we need. If we look like beggars, we’ll get crumbs and would be selling ourselves short. We have a huge market, a skilled workforce and some of the most innovative technology in the world, matched with the rule of law and the firm expectation of five years of stable government. So we’re in a stronger position than anyone to benefit from the network building TPP.

The third decision we must take is to invest in ourselves. A house divided makes easy prey for other and the fractures in the United Kingdom are clear for all to see. That’s why the One Nation agenda is so important. Uniting our country so that we’re more than a city state of London with a UK hinterland is essential to everything we seek to achieve. Investment in rail, road, communications and education are as essential to our future prosperity as reforming the Foreign Office.

The new strategic policy review could bring all this together. For the first time in decades the levers of British influence – defence, diplomacy, aid and trade – could sit alongside domestic efforts in education and infrastructure to give the Prime Minister the strength to act.

While Emmanuel Macron has pension problems and a looming election, Donald Trump is going through impeachment and a coming poll, and Angela Merkel has already announced her resignation, Johnson can look out with confidence at the coming five years certain his majority and with a more distant horizon than any of his global peers makes.

This is a chance Britain can grasp to shape not just our home but our world. I’m confident that the Prime Minister can bring his words to life and make Britain global again.

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Dean Godson: What Johnson should do now in this Government’s first hundred days

Dean Godson is Director of Policy Exchange.

How does a newly re-ascendant Conservative Government maintain the momentum of the greatest electoral success since Margaret Thatcher’s triumph over Michael Foot in 1983?

This is the question posed and answered in a new Policy Exchange briefing paper, The First Hundred Days – published today with a foreword by John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister. Howard is of course a great friend to the United Kingdom and a leading light in the broad “Conservative international”; he is always willing to offer solidarity and counsel to the global centre-right. He greatly admires Boris Johnson, and this is reciprocated.

His words are of particular interest since this is the golden era of the Australian way in UK politics – witness the leading roles of Lynton Crosby and Isaac Levido in successive Conservative election campaigns. Few, if any, American political consultants have enjoyed comparable influence in British elections.

Early on in the Conservative leadership race this summer, Crosby addressed Policy Exchange to invoke the example of the great Robert Menzies, the Australian Liberal Prime Minister whose leadership spanned the 1930s and 1960s – and who spoke of “the forgotten people”. If ever there was an election for the forgotten man and woman in Britain, this was surely it.

But how to make the bond between Johnson’s Conservatives and the “forgotten people” permanent? How to forge this into a governing programme?

In his foreword, Howard praises Johnson’s leadership skills and notes that he connected to wide sections of the British public by giving people hope during the election campaign. He also urges him to “seize the moment” – to take advantage of his new power in Parliament to implement the ideas and promises contained in the Conservative manifesto. Prime Ministers who don’t move fast to take advantage of electoral triumphs regret it, he notes.

The First Hundred Days offers a roadmap for how to do just that – across our four key research themes of Prosperity, Place, People and Patriotism. It reflects the content of the winning manifesto and builds on the theme of a new national consensus, as there seems to be on getting Brexit done among other issues.

There are some simple things that need doing. We need a date for a Budget. Local authorities in devolved countries cannot set their budgets until devolved governments have set theirs; devolved governments cannot set their budget until the UK Government has done so.

There are bigger themes too. Drawing on the research paper of last summer, Modernising the United Kingdom – a landmark in think tank terms – we urge the Government to publish its English Devolution White Paper and bring forward its National Infrastructure Strategy, focusing on cross-border projects as well as connectivity within the four nations of the Union. It is clear that levelling up the United Kingdom, so that London does not leave the regions behind, will involve – as Howard puts it – “stepping forward with the right investment in transport and other infrastructure where needed… but stepping back so that decisions are not always imposed from the top by central government”.

There are opportunities in housing and planning policy too – not just to overcome Nimbyism by building beautiful homes and places, but to provide some public sector workers, such as police officers and nurses, with affordable key worker housing. As a chapter on housing, outlines, the Government should announce that the next Affordable Homes programme will allocate more capital grant funding to schemes that provide a significant proportion of submarket rental homes for local key workers.

Science, as the Prime Minister made clear in his early speeches on the steps of Downing Street and in Manchester, will be a priority for this Government. We outline how a Defence Advanced Researcy Projects Agency-style agency, for high-risk, high-payoff research – at arms-length from ministers – can be created in shadow form within months at UK Research and Innovation, with funding from April next year, while a Bill creates the genuine Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The chapters on the constitution explain that the Government will need to do more than simply repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act in order to restore constitutional norms in Parliament. A new Bill will have to show that it is clear that the Prime Minister (subject to the Sovereign’s approval) is to have the ultimate responsibility to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. The Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission must be set up quickly as well. But it should not mean delaying, for example, the amending of the Human Rights Act to protect UK forces from a sustained and illegitimate legal assault in the form of lawfare.

There are more fronts that can be opened within the first hundred days. There is a chance for the greenest budget ever, by announcing seed funding for three new British battery gigafactories, to accelerate conversion from fossil-fuelled vehicles to electric vehicles. The Government could protect academic freedom and free speech on campuses, with a Bill to establish beyond doubt in law that academic freedom means that opinions and speakers considered unwelcome by a small number of students cannot simply be banned or no-platformed. With an eye to 1st February, when we should have left the EU, the Government could also start negotiations to enter into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (an idea supported explicitly by Howard).

The good news is that, although the Tories have a parliamentary majority comparable to 1983 or 1987, they have in Number 10 Downing Street a sharper team of policy experts than Margaret Thatcher did. Whether or not there are calls for a new Department of the Prime Minister – as there were in the early 1980s – it is clear that this policy operation will be central to this Government’s reforming agenda. It has its work cut out for the next 100 days but the stunning election result gives it a strong mandate for its mission of modernisation and consensus-building.

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Would-Be Chinese Defector Details Covert Campaigns in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Westlake Legal Group 22oz-defec1-facebookJumbo Would-Be Chinese Defector Details Covert Campaigns in Hong Kong and Taiwan Wang Liqiang United States International Relations Taiwan Politics and Government Hong Kong Espionage and Intelligence Services elections Defense and Military Forces Defectors (Political) China Australia Asylum, Right of

BEIJING — A man claiming to be a disillusioned Chinese intelligence operative has told the Australian authorities that China’s military intelligence agencies were directly intervening in politics in Hong Kong and Taiwan, buying media coverage, infiltrating universities, funneling donations to favored candidates and creating thousands of social media accounts to attack Taiwan’s governing party.

So far, some Western diplomatic officials believe the claims by an asylum seeker named Wang Liqiang to be reliable at least in part, according to two people briefed on the matter. While some of his details appeared speculative and impossible to verify, the officials were taking his claims seriously, the people said.

If verified, his account would be one of the most detailed ever made public of China’s covert measures to manipulate politics and public opinion in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Mr. Wang’s account, a 17-page plea for political asylum in Australia, reads in parts like an espionage thriller. He detailed code names of covert operations, shadowy business ventures and ultimately his dawning disenchantment with what he described as China’s efforts to stifle democracy and human rights around the world.

“I do not want to see Taiwan becoming a second Hong Kong,” he wrote. “And I would not become an accomplice in the conspiracy of turning an originally democratic and free land into autocratic land.”

The office of Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs confirmed receiving Mr. Wang’s statement, which was first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. An English translation was provided to The New York Times by a person familiar with his request for asylum. The people familiar with Mr. Wang’s statement requested anonymity because his allegations are still being investigated.

Mr. Wang’s statement surfaced as protests continue to convulse Hong Kong, driven in large part by concerns over the steady encroachment of Communist Party rule despite Beijing’s pledge to respect the former British colony’s economic and political autonomy.

In his account, Mr. Wang said he was involved with the apprehension by Chinese agents in 2015 of five booksellers in Hong Kong, an incident often cited by demonstrators. He said he received orders “to pay close attention” to one of them, Lee Bo, for his involvement in publishing a gossipy book called “Xi Jinping and His Six Women” that purported to delve into the personal life of China’s top leader.

The statement also emerged only weeks before Taiwan’s presidential election in January. The campaign has already been shaken by allegations of Chinese interference. The governing party has accused China of supporting the opposition party, the Kuomintang.

“I have to repeat that China is factually interfering in Taiwan’s election, and it happens every day,” Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said on Tuesday as she officially launched a re-election campaign.

Beijing has made no secret of its opposition to Ms. Tsai and her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, which has sought to bolster Taiwan’s political and economic independence. Her challenger is Han Kuo-yu, a populist who was last year elected mayor of Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, and who has promised to improve relations with the mainland.

According to his account, Mr. Wang himself helped funnel campaign donations of roughly $2.8 million to Mr. Han in the 2018 elections.

“Now that the 2020 presidential election is approaching, China will be putting much more efforts into it,” he wrote.

Chao Chien-min, one of Mr. Han’s policy advisers, strongly disputed the accusations.

“How could Han Kuo-yu dare to casually accept 20 million renminbi in unknown money?” he said. “Does he still want to survive in Taiwan’s political arena? I believe that is impossible.”

Mr. Wang’s allegations seem certain to reverberate widely in Taiwan, in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Although China’s intelligence operations in Taiwan and Hong Kong have long been presumed to be robust, the statement provided an extraordinary amount of detail.

“We had an inkling this was happening, but we have never had evidence or an insider’s account,” Adam Ni, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney who has been recently working in Taiwan, said in a telephone interview.

With the elections in Taiwan, for example, Mr. Wang described how the separate branches of China’s military divided up their labors.

Mr. Wang said intelligence efforts included creating more than 20 media and internet companies to launch “targeted attacks,” and spending roughly $200 million over an unspecified period to invest in television stations in Taiwan. His statement did not explain how such a large sum of money failed to be noticed or raise alarms.

The disclosures could also further sour relations between China and Australia, which recently passed a law seeking to rein in foreign interference after several wealthy Chinese businessmen tied to Beijing were accused of trying to manipulate Australian politics.

One of those businessmen, Huang Xiangmo, was a successful developer who had his Australian residency canceled in February. According to Mr. Wang’s statement, Mr. Huang led a group of Australian state and local lawmakers to visit Hong Kong, where they met with Mr. Wang’s boss, a man named Xiang Xin. Mr. Huang, who has previously rejected the claim that he has tried to interfere in Australian politics on behalf of Beijing, could not be reached for comment.

These kinds of connections between Australian lawmakers, Chinese wealth and officials whose Communist Party ties are masked by big business have put much of Australia on edge. Earlier this week, the former head of Australia’s main foreign intelligence agency described China’s espionage efforts as “insidious.”

Mr. Wang described himself as the son of a public servant, but little else is known about him, including his age and hometown. He could not be reached for comment. One clue from his statement is that he studied to be a painter, winning awards in Anhui Province in eastern China.

Seeking a job, he ended up at an investment firm called China Innovation Investment Limited, run by Mr. Xiang. Mr. Wang wrote that the company was in fact a front for an arm of China’s Ministry of National Defense to conduct a range of political and economic espionage.

Mr. Xiang, 54, is an owner or top director at more than a dozen Hong Kong companies. Some of the companies are co-owned by his wife, Gong Qing, whose biography includes positions at two government-tied institutions. One of those was the China National Science and Technology Information Center, a military intelligence organization within the People’s Liberation Army.

Asked to comment, Mr. Xiang denied any knowledge of Mr. Wang. “I never knew Wang,” he wrote in an email.

China Innovation Investments is registered in the Cayman Islands and publicly traded in Hong Kong. The company focuses on both private and public investments related to the “integration of military and civil sectors,” according to company documents. Mr. Xiang is the chairman and Ms. Gong is listed as an alternative director.

The operations in Hong Kong Mr. Wang described occurred before the protests erupted. He said he became disillusioned when he was tasked to travel to Taiwan in May to take part in operations related to the coming election. He received a false identity with a South Korean passport and a predated French visa, which was mailed to him from the National University of Defense Technology in Hunan Province.

His wife, also a painter, moved to Australia to study in 2012, he wrote. After visiting her and their child in December 2018, he decided to defect and seek asylum.

It is far from clear that he will receive it.

In 2005, Chen Yonglin, a Chinese consular official, sought asylum, promising to divulge details of China’s spy network. The Australian government initially rejected his request, prompting a parliamentary inquiry. It found that he was told the denial was “for reasons of foreign affairs.” Mr. Chen’s application was later approved.

Mr. Wang suggested he understood that Australia might again need to be persuaded before standing up for a single defector. He condemned China’s autocratic ways, expressing his “resolute opposition to the actions imposed by the Communist Party of China that trample on democracy, human rights and freedom.”

“If I return to the place under their control,” he added, “I will surely be killed for disclosing the secrets because I know too much.”

Steven Lee Myers reported from Beijing, and Damien Cave from Sydney. Alexandra Stevenson contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu in Beijing contributed research.

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Australia Says Google Misled Consumers Over Location Tracking

Westlake Legal Group 29oz-google-facebookJumbo Australia Says Google Misled Consumers Over Location Tracking Privacy Online Advertising Google Inc Consumer Protection Computers and the Internet Australia Android (Operating System)

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian regulators on Tuesday accused Google of misleading consumers about its collection of their personal location information through its Android mobile operating system, the latest government action against a tech company over its handling of vast quantities of user data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleged in a lawsuit that Google falsely led users to believe that disabling the “Location History” setting on Android phones would stop the company from collecting their location data. But users were actually required to also turn off a second setting, “Web and App Activity,” that was enabled by default.

Google did not properly disclose the need to disable both settings from January 2017 until late 2018, the suit alleges. The company changed its user guidance after The Associated Press revealed in August 2018 that it was continuing to collect the data even after the Location History setting was switched off.

The commission also said that while Google made it clear to users what features they would lose by turning off location services, the company did not inform them adequately about what it would do with the data collected.

“This is part of a system of not being able to make informed choices about what’s being done with your data,” said Rod Sims, the commission’s chairman.

Mr. Sims called the lawsuit the first of its kind by a national government against a tech company over its use of personal data. The agency is seeking what he called significant financial penalties against Google, among other corrective measures. He added that he hoped the case would raise awareness among consumers over how much data is being collected.

“We need to be getting ahead of them, because this is a whole new world,” he said of data collection issues.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement that the company was reviewing the allegations. She said Google would continue to engage with the commission over its concerns but intended to defend itself.

The action by Australian regulators comes as governments and consumer groups around the world have expressed growing concern about the power of tech companies, including their collection of personal data from devices that are indispensable to the lives of billions of people.

Consumer groups from several European countries had already sued Google over the location tracking issue under a comprehensive data privacy law adopted in Europe last year. Under that law, a French agency fined Google 50 million euros, or about $55 million, in January for not properly disclosing to users how it collected data to create personalized ads.

In the United States, regulators approved a $5 billion fine against Facebook this year over its role in allowing Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, to gain access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users.

While Google has made changes to Android in later iterations that limit the location data it gathers, the business incentives for collecting as much personal data as possible remain great. Location-targeted advertising is worth an estimated $21 billion a year, and Google, along with Facebook, dominates the mobile ad market.

The Australian lawsuit is in part the product of a 19-month investigation by the consumer commission into the market power of Google and Facebook. It issued 23 recommendations, including an overhaul of privacy laws, to limit their reach and force them to take more responsibility for the content they disseminate.

The Australian government has also passed legislation challenging the power of tech companies, including a law in 2018 that compelled tech-industry giants to disable encryption. And under a new law criminalizing “abhorrent violent material” online, Australia is using the threat of fines and jail time to pressure platforms like Facebook to block such content, and it is moving to take down websites that hold any illegal content.

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