Month: June 2019

  • Bill Shorten pushes back on Tanya Plibersek’s call for a binding vote on same-sex marriage

    Labor leader Bill Shorten has sent a clear signal that he does not agree with the push by his deputy,Tanya Plibersek, for the ALP to have a binding vote on same-sex marriage, highlighting a clear split in the Labor leadership.
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    Mr Shorten said that while Australia had waited “too long” for same-sex marriage, “the best way to achieve it … is not to force people to agree with it, but to convince them”.

    Earlier this week, when Mr Shorten was overseas for Anzac Day commemorations, Ms Plibersek called for Labor to compel its MPs to vote for same-sex marriage, ending its treatment as a conscience issue for the party.

    Ms Plibersek argued that same-sex marriage was an issue of “legal equality” and Labor should change its platform at its national conference in July.

    The move has been met with passionate criticism from some quarters of the Labor Party, with some MPs threatening to cross the floor if they are made to support same-sex marriage. Others are angry at what they perceive to be leadership maneuvering by the ALP’s deputy leader.

    One Labor Right MP said anger in the party with Ms Plibersek was “unbelievable” and her actions were  a “white hot f— you” to Mr Shorten, while Left MPs who support same-sex marriage said she had made a tactical mistake that raised questions about her political judgment.

    When asked by reporters if he thought Ms Plibersek had raised the issue while he was overseas to boost her own popularity, Mr Shorten replied “not at all”.

    The Labor leader is on the record as supporting a conscience vote and noted again on Thursday that he would like to see a conscience vote rather than a binding one.

    While Mr Shorten also noted that Ms Plibersek had previously supported a binding vote (she voted for one at the ALP’s 2011 national conference), his own remarks reinforce the stark contrast between their views on same-sex marriage strategy.

    The Labor frontbench is also split on the conscience vote idea.

    Members of the Left (Ms Plibersek’s faction), including Penny Wong, Mark Butler, Jenny Macklin and Stephen Jones, support a binding vote.

    Members of right factions (which include Mr Shorten), such as Joel Fitzgibbon and David Feeney, support a conscience vote.

    Senate crossbencher David Leyonhjelm wants the Parliament to reconsider same-sex marriage after it previously rejected a proposal in 2012, but is waiting to see if the Liberal Party will change its position to give its MPs a free vote.

    With James Massola 

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  • Stop giving local jobs to backpackers and foreign workers: says Ged Kearney of ACTU

    ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert
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    ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert

    ACTU President Ged Kearney Photo: Steven Siewert

    Fruit picking jobs are popular with travelling backpackers. Photo: Louie Douvis

    Australia needs to clamp down on the number of backpackers and other foreigners receiving working visas, according to the country’s peak union body.

    But business group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has hit back at the push, saying any reduction in temporary visas would damage the economy and ultimately reduce job opportunities.

    In a submission to the Senate inquiry into temporary work visas, the Australian Council of Trade Unions says the number of international workers needs to be curbed in favour of traditional permanent migration.

    The unions want the currently uncapped temporary visa system to be reviewed and stricter laws around 457 visa testing.

    “We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages,” says ACTU president Ged Kearney.

    According to Department of Immigration figures, there are 1.8 million temporary entrants in Australia.

    Of these, 1.2 million have work rights, including 167,000 with 457 visas, 160,000 with working holiday visas and 623,000 New Zealand special visa holders.

    The 457 visas, which allow skilled workers to stay in Australia for up to four years, have been a long-standing source of controversy. Labor, the Greens and the union movement have argued the program is regularly rorted and takes jobs from local workers, while it is supported by the business community.

    The ACTU claims the number of short-stay workers rose by almost 50 per cent from 2007 to 2014.

    In their submission, they argue there is a concerning relationship between the number of unemployed people and the number of temporary visa holders.

    “The working holiday visa should be capped to allow more opportunity for young Australians to enter the workforce,” the submission argues.

    “There is no benefit to the current trend where we rely on transient workers to fill alleged gaps in skills,” according to Ms Kearney.

    After New Zealand, the majority of temporary entrants are from China, the UK, India, South Korea, the US and Germany.

    The ACCI criticised the union’s submission, with Jenny Lambert director of employment education and training saying that capping the number of working backpackers would hurt the tourism sector.

    “The tourism and agricultural sectors will also be hurt because they rely on those workers to fill seasonal labour shortages. The union proposal could put in danger the ability of Australians to undertake working holidays overseas, as the visas are part of reciprocal arrangements,” she said.

    “Reducing the capacity of international students to undertake work would make Australia a less attractive place for students, undermining our $15 billion international education industry.”

    The ACCI says it will soon release its submission to the Senate inquiry.

    The Senate inquiry was established by Labor and the Greens in March because they felt a government-commissioned review had not gone far enough in investigating the 457 visa program.

    In March, Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash announced the government would adopt various recommendations of the review that were aimed at cracking down on rorting.

    The new inquiry was labelled “a waste of Senate time and resources” by the Australian Industry Group.

    At the time, AIG chief executive Innes Willox said the inquiry would retread ground covered by the government’s review.

    “It found no evidence to back the claims made of widespread rorting of the program and made numerous suggestions for policy changes which have been adopted by the government and that address many of the areas of concern to the Senate,” Mr Willox said.

    Ms Cash attacked the inquiry in March, calling it politically motivated by people “fundamentally opposed to the 457 skilled migration program.”

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  • Avengers’ Jeremy Renner sings funny ode to Hawkeye on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show

    Jeremy Renner performing on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Photo: YouTube Jeremy Renner as the much maligned superhero Hawkeye. Photo: Jay Maidment/AP
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    More on Avengers: Age of Ultron

    Actor Jeremy Renner has surprised fans of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with a piano-led tribute song to Hawkeye, his Avengers: Age of Ultron character.

    Hawkeye is sometimes maligned for having lamer super powers than the likes of Thor, Hulk and Captain America.

    The film’s writer/director, Joss Whedon, told MTV News that “[Hawkeye] did get the fuzzy end of the lollipop” in the previous film, in 2012, The Avengers.

    A deadpan Renner looked as comfortable as a veteran balladeer, seated at a grand piano crooning (to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud): “When you’re on a team with the Hulk and Thor … will people believe that I’m not quite as tough, will anyone even notice me?

    “But listen, I’ve got powers too and they’re sweet. I promise I can do so much more than just archery.

    “I’ve got a collection of scarves and berets, I play trombone … I once got to second base on my Tinder date, my cat has got its own Instagram … and I can open a pickle jar.”

    Renner went on: “Yes I know about Captain America’s strength, and the Hulk becomes a towering man, but I got seventh place in my fantasy league and I once butt-dialed Jean Claude Van Dame. Baby I’m as super as they are.”

    All good fun, if just a plug for the film, but if anything it yet again shows remarkable power of The Tonight Show to produce entertaining viral videos that gain millions of YouTube views with impressive regularity.

    Renner’s Hawkeye tribute had racked up nearly one million views within two days of going to air.

    In the past 18 months Fallon’s program has chalked up hundreds of millions of YouTube views, with some of his most popular clips including the series of lip-syncing battles, the drum-off between the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and Will Ferrell, Fallon’s own failure to read romantic hints from Nicole Kidman and 56-year old Kevin Bacon re-enacting his Footloose dance sequence on the way to Fallon’s desk. Last week Russell Crowe even starred in song on The Tonight Show, as have Australian acts Sia and Sheppard.

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  • Windows 10 takes shape at Microsoft Build 2015

    Microsoft is putting an emphasis on the fact that Windows 10 can power all the devices in your life, hoping to have the operating system on 1 billion machines by 2018. Photo: MicrosoftDuring the first day of the Microsoft Build Developer Conference — the tech giant’s biggest event of the year when it comes to all things software — Windows chief Terry Myerson said Microsoft was aiming to have Windows 10 on 1 billion devices by 2018, a bold goal given the less-than-stellar uptake of Windows 8.
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    The fact that the new operating system is a step away from the “metro” interface that turned so many users off last time will certainly help but Microsoft still faces a circular problem when it comes to keeping its new operating systems relevant (users won’t convert or upgrade because they don’t think the software’s there; developers won’t make software because there are no users).

    Making Windows 10 free for all current Windows users as well as forcing it onto devices such as the Surface tablet, Xbox One and Windows phones will make up some of the numbers but on Wednesday Microsoft showed it was also keen to sell its vision of a universal operating system to both users and developers who have moved to competing products. All-new browser gets an official name

    After revealing in January that a brand new browser was in the works, and confirming later that it would effectively replace the increasingly shunned Internet Explorer, we finally have a new name for Windows 10’s default gateway to the web: Microsoft Edge.

    A launch video showed off new features of the browser — previously referred to as Project Spartan — including digital ink for annotating and marking up web pages, deep integration with the Cortana digital assistant and a built-in reading list to keep track of interesting articles.

    Keen-eyed observers of the event will have noticed the “Edge” name allows Microsoft to keep the infamous lower-case ‘e’ for its browser’s icon.

    Microsoft also announced that developers would be able to repurpose their Chrome extensions to work with Microsoft Edge, which could possibly help the new browser hit the ground running when Windows 10 launches this year. Universal apps puts mobile on PC, PC on a phone

    Software ubiquity is a big deal for Windows 10, with Microsoft claiming apps downloaded from its store will work across all your Windows devices seamlessly, be they PC, smartphone or tablet. This is a very powerful feature in theory but useless unless developers have a good reason to make apps for Windows.

    To address this, Microsoft announced two new software development kits that allow apps designed for Android or iOS devices to be easily converted into a Windows 10 universal app. Essentially, if an app exists on iPhone, iPad or an Android device, the developer should be able to bring it to Windows PCs, tablets and smartphones without much hassle.

    Microsoft also showed off how Continuum — the feature that ensures apps will adapt regardless of your screen size and whether you’re using a touch screen or more traditional hardware — will let you use a Windows 10 phone as a desktop machine. Connecting your smartphone to a monitor or TV will scale the apps out to appear closer to how they would be on a PC. The screen of the smartphone can be used as a proxy mouse and keyboard while docked in this way, or you could opt to connect physical input devices by Bluetooth. You could even watch a video or take a call on the phone while working on the connected screen. Hololens will allow you to stick Windows 10 apps on your wall

    Earlier this year Microsoft introduced Hololens, an augmented reality headset that allowed data and computer graphics to appear and be manipulated by a user in the real world. At the time it appeared as though the headset would only run software designed specifically for it (which might have limited it to Microsoft-owned software like the demonstrated Minecraft and Skype), but now we know it will also be able to run any Windows universal app.

    The apps will appear in a window just like they would on a PC, but they’ll float around like other virtual objects.You’ll will be able to interact with the windows using gestures and voice, move them around and pin them to walls or set them to follow you around. Such a system could give you easy access to your regular Windows apps and files in the literal background while you inspect 3D objects or appear virtually in a meeting at work.

    In addition, Microsoft pointed out there was Hololens-specific software coming from partners including Disney, NASA and Autodesk, and showed off educational-style software that could be used to share and manipulate 3D graphics, like human anatomy for medical students.

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  • Meet Australian company IP-Echelon, one of the biggest anti-piracy operations in the world

    IP-Echelon founder Adrian Leatherland and his firm’s headquarters in Melbourne. Photo: LinkedIN/Fairfax Media IP-Echelon has requested almost 10 million URLs to be removed on Google on behalf of its clients. Photo: Google Transparency Report
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    Adrian Leatherland may be the most fearsome pirate hunter in the world.

    You’ve probably never heard of the 38-year-old Monash University computer science and maths graduate, or either of his companies – Australian-based IP-Echelon, and the R&D lab that develops its proprietary technology, IP88 Research.

    That’s because in the seven years since he registered them with ASIC, Hollywood’s secret weapon in the fight against online piracy has not spoken to the media once, and has managed to fly under the radar – until now.

    IP-Echelon, founded in 2008 by Leatherland, the sole shareholder, director and secretary, is what pirates like to call a “copyright troll” – and it has a reputation for being the best in the business.

    Situated in a nondescript office on Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD (it has a second, US office right in the heart of Hollywood), the company’s proprietary software monitors piracy activity around the web from physical “listening stations” in more than 25 countries, trawling peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, as well as social media platforms, websites and online advertising platforms.

    It then reports back to copyright owners which internet users’ IP addresses are pirating what, and where, as well as online locations where infringing content is hosted or listed.

    With this information, rights holders can then authorise the sending of copyright infringement warning letters to internet service providers, which sometimes forward them on to their customers alleged of pirating. The information gathered by the company can also be used to send takedown requests to websites and search engines, demanding that the search engines delist pirate sites, or that the sites hosting the infringing content remove it.

    One of IP-Echelon’s biggest clients is HBO, which recently contracted the firm to help track down pirates of Game of Thrones – the world’s most-pirated show – and send them warning letters asking them to stop illicitly downloading it.

    But HBO isn’t its only high-profile client – the company’s client list includes some of the biggest entertainment studios in the world, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

    To illustrate the importance of IP-Echelon to these big players, its automated software issued some 7.5 million URL takedown requests to Google on behalf of HBO alone.

    Takedown requests – which Google says it complies with more than 99 per cent of the time – result in Google removing specific URLs from its search engine when they are identified as facilitating piracy of a rights-holder’s content.

    Overall, IP-Echelon has requested almost 10 million URLs be removed from Google, and has made more takedown requests on behalf of HBO and Paramount than any other piracy-hunting company; it’s the second most-used company for takedown requests on behalf of Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures. Google ranks it 15th in terms of companies that issue takedown requests to it.

    The pejorative term “copyright troll”, however, tends to apply when a company contacts individual pirates by mail (digital or snail mail) and asks them to cease pirating a studio’s content or, in some cases, pay compensation for copyright infringement to avoid being sued (which is what Voltage Pictures, the company behind the film Dallas Buyers Club, has attempted to do in the US)

    Leatherland personally signed off on recent letters sent to alleged Game of Thrones pirates, telling them to stop pirating the HBO content.

    However he told Fairfax Media that IP-Echelon was “not interested in the identity of users” itself, and does not profit from litigation or legal threats.

    “We sometimes inform internet service providers (ISPs) that their network is being used inappropriately,” Mr Leatherland said, referring to his company sending them letters which then sometimes get forwarded to customers.

    Mr Leatherland described his service as the “Nielsen of piracy”.

    “Nielsen measures legal viewing and we measure illegal viewing.”

    IP-Echelon’s ability to map trends using its expansive data sets, and its research focus on the psychological motivations behind piracy, are highly sought after by rights holders trying desperately to mitigate revenue losses from copyright infringement.

    Given the high rate of piracy in Australia, it’s little wonder Leatherland has gone to efforts to keep a low profile. The very worst kind of pirate – one that seemingly takes pride in ripping stuff for free – is often only too keen to engage in retribution, however futile.

    While Leatherland is eager to credit his team of “very smart people” – “several PhDs and other experts” – with developing the company’s proprietary technology, it’s clear IP-Echelon is his baby.

    An expert in the field, who wished to remain anonymous, told Fairfax IP-Echelon was “the best outfit in that [piracy monitoring] game”.

    Their own technology and algorithms were “far more sophisticated” and “forensically accurate” than others’, the source said.

    “They are good at recognising emerging trends and good at recognising digital evidence of any sort in that field.

    “These guys have a very good reputation but they are very discreet.”

    Staff are made to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) upon leaving, and just two current employees have their jobs at IP-Echelon listed on LinkedIn – including Leatherland – though Fairfax understands there are upwards of 20 staff at the company.

    As it has racked up high-profile clients over the years, the company has made a retreat of sorts through toning down the language on its website.

    It was once busily drumming up business with the offer of a “free piracy analysis” and clearly advertised its role in drafting letters to send to alleged infringers, as well as packaging reports “to be used as evidence in court”.

    In 2013 however – the same year Google’s transparency report lists IP-Echelon’s first takedown request for HBO – it replaced any mention of the word “piracy” on its website with phrases like “unauthorised distribution channels”, “content infringements” and “copyright entitlements”.

    Archived versions of the site also show it employed public relations consultants and lawyers who specialise in “discovery subpoenas” and litigation.

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