My submission to the Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation

by on Sep.01, 2012, under Blog

Now that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation has published submissions to the Inquiry, I am free to publish my submission here (submissions may not be published elsewhere prior to being published by the Committee).

My submission is below.


RE: Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation

Dear Mr Secretary,

I write in regard to the current Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation. I am very concerned that some of the proposed reforms are over-reaching in their scope and intent. I am also concerned that the submissions process was incredibly brief for an inquiry with complex proposals and terms of reference, and which ranges across the important issues of national security, data privacy, data security, and human rights.

My perspective is that of an IT professional with more than 15 years’ experience in system and network administration (including server deployment and hardening), and provision of Internet connectivity and web hosting services.

Because of the short time available for review and analysis of the proposed reforms, I will confine my submission mainly to the proposed reform listed as item 15.c.

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No time for complacency: Why it’s still important to make submissions to the Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation

by on Aug.15, 2012, under Blog

It’s been reported that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has back-pedalled on plans to push forward with far-reaching increases in powers for Australia’s Intelligence agencies (ASIO, ASIS, DSD) being reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. What may not be clear is that the current Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation  hasn’t been disbanded. Or deferred. Or delayed.

It’s important to remember that we still need to make submissions to the Inquiry to provide tangible feedback on this issue. One of the possible (intentional?) outcomes of this announcement is that people breathe a sigh of relief and don’t bother to put in submissions. When the proposals eventually get revived, the government of the day can point to the lack of submissions and say, “See, there’s no real opposition to these proposals…”

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature (the maxim “Never assume malice where incompetence will suffice” is a pretty good one), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the announcement has been made in full awareness of the likely effect of reducing people’s sense of urgency about putting in a submission.

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Watching history unfold: Viewing the Curiosity landing from a NASA facility!

by on Aug.07, 2012, under Blog

Yesterday I was out at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla to witness a piece of space history – the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (a.k.a. ‘Curiosity’) on Mars. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of coverage of this amazing feat of maths, physics, and engineering in the last day or two, so I’ll skip all that and just share my experience.   🙂

Here are a few pix I snagged during the day…


Dishes poised to acquire the signal from Curiosity on the morning of landing day

Dishes poised to acquire the signal from Curiosity on the morning of landing day

Early in the day, the 70m dish (DSS43) and smaller DSS34 (hidden) are pointed towards where Mars will soon rise over the horizon, so that they’re ready to acquire the signal. Tidbinbilla was the primary receiving site for the landing, as none of the other two sites in the Deep Space Network around the globe had line-of-sight to Mars at the time. Just like in the movie The Dish, Australia’s space tracking stations were key to communicating with the spacecraft during the most critical phases of the mission.

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‘The Cloud’ – Canberra Tech Talks

by on Aug.02, 2012, under Blog

Tonight I led a discussion at Canberra Tech Talks on ‘The Cloud’.

Canberra Tech Talks are informal discussions/talks for anyone interested in technical topics, regardless of their level of expertise. We encourage curious n00bs and seasoned experts alike. 🙂 The talks are designed to make complex topics accessible without either oversimplifying or ‘talking down’ to participants. It’s a safe space to ask questions, and as much of a jargon-free zone as possible.

Tonight’s discussion was wide-ranging, covering everything from the basics what ‘the cloud’ actually means, to issues of privacy and security in light of the current (Australian) Parliamentary Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation.

Talks are usually livetweeted using the #CanberraTechTalks hashtag.

My prepared notes for this evening’s discussion are linked below for those who want a little more detail on the topic, and have a couple of links to further reading.

The Cloud – Canberra Tech Talks


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An exciting time for science nerds!

by on Jul.05, 2012, under Blog

Well, last night was very exciting if you’re a science nerd! Physicists from CERN reported that two independent experiments at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) confirmed that they have very strong evidence for a particle that is consistent with the expected energy signature of the long-sought Higgs Boson.

Angry Birds celebrated in geeky style with an homage…   🙂

Picture of Angry Birds pigs in space with the title The Piggs Boson

Why is there so much hype about the Higgs Boson? Well, according to the Standard Model of physics, the Higgs Field^ is what ‘gives’ mass to all the particles that have mass. If we didn’t find the Higgs Boson roughly where we were searching for it, that would suggest that the Higgs Field doesn’t exist. And that would indicate that our current understanding of some fundamental physics was wrong. But nope, it seems like we’re on the right track – we’ve ‘seen’ the Higgs Boson, and can be confident that the Higgs Field is real.  *whew*

With the Higgs Boson where we expect it – and with an ability to ‘see’ it (indirectly) – we can start figuring out how gravity works. Which is kind of a big deal. (If you’re a nerd.)

Now the hard work really begins…   🙂


^ The Higgs Field surrounds and permeates everything. It binds the universe together. Y’know, kind of like The Force.   😉


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