How the same-sex marriage vote will impact on human rights and democracy

 Supporters of the ‘yes’ vote celebrate the 
result at a street party outside the Victorian Trades Hall in Melbourne. AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise of same-sex marriage by Christmas will almost certainly be honoured. We will continue to argue for some time whether the long, expensive and emotionally charged process that’s delivered this change was worth it.

The postal survey basically reaffirmed what opinion polls had made clear for some years. It also introduced certain dilemmas for MPs, who were asked to cast a conscience vote while acknowledging the wishes of their constituents.

Before the poll several MPs said they would follow the vote of their electorate. Some opponents of change, like Matthias Corman, felt bound to vote for the legislation. Others, including Pauline Hanson, abstained.

The dilemma is most acute for Labor members in the lower house, as all but four of the electorates that recorded a “no” vote are held by Labor members. Three senior Labor figures – Jason Clare, Tony Burke and Chris Bowen – who represent the electorates with the highest “no” vote all support change.

The Labor members who are opposed are seemingly united by their connections with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), the last bastion of the Catholic right in the Labor Party.

Labor is managing its divisions smartly: clearly the handful of anti-marriage MPs were told they could vote no provided they did nothing to delay or water down the legislation. The same is not true of the government parties, where the marriage debate is caught up in the increasing febrile battles for control.

There will be further attempts in the lower house to introduce “religious freedom” protections into the legislation, despite the fact that it already exempts religious institutions from having to perform same-sex marriages.

In fact, the amendments the right seeks are largely attempts to water down existing anti-discrimination provisions.

Focus on human rights

Much of the discussion has invoked “human rights”, not a concept that is often central in Australian political debate.

There’s a certain irony in members of a government that has long been engaged in rancorous debate with its own Human Rights Commission suddenly wanting to incorporate sections of international human rights law into domestic legislation.

“Human rights” are an abstract notion, which are created, protected and destroyed by political action. Most countries do not recognise human rights as encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity. This has been the subject of increasingly heated debates within United Nations forums.

Australia, like most of what we used to call “the Western world”, is committed internationally to the position Hillary Clinton articulated when she pronounced that “gay rights are human rights”.

Achievement of marriage equality is a further step towards recognition that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable. Symbolically, this is a victory that goes far beyond marriage, even if it is not the support for political correctness that Turnbull’s predecessor, Tony Abbott, foresaw.

But the process has had significant costs, both for the principles of parliamentary government and for thousands of queer Australians, who felt abused and harassed by attacks from the “no” campaign.

As “yes” campaigner Magda Szubanski said:

The LGBTQI community were used as unwilling human guinea pigs in a political experiment. We may never know the exact human cost of this experiment. The truth is some of us did not survive this process.

Magda Szubanski addresses the crowd following the announcement of the same-sex marriage vote result. AAP

New political challenges

Szubanski may be exaggerating, but there is considerable evidence that many people found the protracted campaign very difficult.

Calls to help services for LGBTI people increased considerably. Material and emotional resources that could have gone into other issues were consumed by the marriage debate, although some newly energised young queers may now engage in broader political advocacy.

But most LGBTI Australians are very much like the rest of the country. The week after the poll result the Perth Pride committee banned refugee advocates from their parade.

Although the ruling was retracted under criticism, it was a reminder that the coalition around marriage was often born of immediate self-interest. Despite the language of rights and equality, many marriage advocates have little concern for broader issues.

In the fortnight between the announcement of the poll result and the Senate vote we saw both the forcible removal of men on Manus Island from one makeshift camp to another, and a long parliamentary process establish limited right to die laws in Victoria.

The latter was achieved without a poll or a plebiscite. This showed that parliaments can resolve difficult moral questions through their own processes. The former raised much more intractable questions of human rights than a change to the Marriage Act.

Marriage equality caught the public imagination, in part because despite the fears of the right there are no real losers if marriage is extended to more people.

As former British prime minister David Cameron said, he supported same-sex marriage because he is a conservative. Unfortunately, his Australian counterparts have a less generous vision of conservatism.

David Cameron speaks in support of same-sex marriage legalisation.

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Trophy hunting could cause extinction in stressed populations – new research

 The mane attraction.

People are now the most important predators for many animal populations on the planet, but people are rather different from “ordinary” predators. While a lion or an eagle is just trying to get dinner, human predators can be motivated by other aspects of an animal than simply how much meat it can provide.

Trophy hunters obsessively target animals with the largest hornsantlers or manes. Poachers focus on elephants with the largest tusks – and there is a subset of insect collectors who will pay premium prices for stag or rhinoceros beetle specimens with really huge horns or mandibles.

All of these focus their predation on what biologists call “sexually selected” traits. These evolve because they give the (usually male) animal that carries the trait an advantage in competition for mates, either by allowing him to dominate and exclude rival males – think of red deer stags – or because females of his species actively prefer to mate with males with large, loud or bright sexually selected traits, as in the case of birds of paradise.

How these sexually selected traits evolve is a question that has been a difficult issue for biologists for some years: why should females prefer males with a long tail or with especially bright colours – and what is it about stags with large antlers that allows them to win contests and dominate groups of females?

An increasing body of evidence now supports the idea that the expression of these traits is linked in some way to the genetic “quality” of a male. Males who have lost the genetic lottery and who are carrying more than their share of genes that are detrimental to health do not have the resources to grow a big tail or a large set of antlers. Conversely, those lucky males who happen to have a particularly good set of genes can afford the handicap of carrying around a super-sized rack of antlers or set of horns, or will be able to grow extra long and brightly coloured feathery plumes.

Selective harvest

This is useful for our understanding of animal behaviour, but it also has wider implications for the evolution of these species. Researchers have recently found that strongly sexually selected species can evolve faster in response to environmental challenges than species where mating is more random.

Picture of a stag
One of the stag party. Shutterstock

Because males with higher genetic quality gain the majority of matings in these species, their “good genes” can spread through a population much faster than they would if mating were random. This means that strong sexual selection can allow a population to adapt faster to a changing environment, and in some scenarios these species can avoid extinction when the environment changes because of this fast evolutionary response.

In our newly-published research, we asked the question of how this might change when those highest-quality males are removed by “selective harvest”. It’s prohibitively difficult to test these ideas with real hunted populations, so we developed a computer simulation which allowed us to examine what happens when you take these animals out of a population.

Our results are clear – and worrying. If the environment is relatively stable, then even quite severe harvesting of high-quality males is sustainable. But if the population is already stressed by a changing environment, then removing even a small percentage of the best males can lead to extinction. The trouble is, almost all animal populations today are facing increasing stress from changing environments.

This goes against the conventional wisdom. Since there is usually little paternal care of offspring in these animals – and because it seems reasonable to assume that females will not have problems getting fertilised if we remove, say, 15% of the males – it is usually assumed that trophy hunting and similar selective harvests are unlikely to drive animals to extinction when only a small proportion of males are hunted. Our results suggest otherwise.

Picture of an elephant
Big tusks, big target. Shutterstock

Better management would make a difference

Should we, therefore, ban trophy hunting and insect collecting? The argument about trophy hunting in particular goes on – but we do not think that our research adds great weight to either position. So far, it is only based on a computer model – clearly we need some tests of our results based on real data.

What we might consider, however, is changing management practices. We examined how different management altered the outcome of our model, and again we found a clear result. If a minimum age limit is applied to hunted animals, so that only old animals who have already had a chance to mate and spread their genes are removed, then the increased extinction risk that we found goes away.

If a population must be hunted, then restricting hunting to older males only and managing the population sensibly by adjusting quotas when there are signs of stress should ensure that any risk of extinction is minimised.

This article was written by:
Image of Rob KnellRob Knell – [Reader in Evolutionary Ecology, Queen Mary University of London]





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The way your children watch YouTube is not that surprising – but it is a concern. Here are some tips

 Clips of Peppa Pig on YouTube aren’t always 
what you expect them to be. mellowynk/flickr 

Imagine a 3 year old in front of a screen watching Peppa Pig (their favourite TV character) hanging by a noose – the victim of a lynch mob. As the video continues the child sees Peppa explicitly swearing, violently stabbing her brother; and then Peppa’s family acting out a sex scene inspired by 50 Shades of Grey.

Parody and unauthorised online children’s content is an issue writer James Bridle brought attention to recently with his article Something is wrong on the internet.

My audit of these videos shows that in an odd way they actually resonate with a young child’s level of development. This helps us to understand why they get so many views.

However the inappropriate and unsafe messages they communicate to children has worrying implications. Being aware and taking a few key steps can help minimise these experiences in your household.

Read more: Don’t use technology as a bargaining chip with your kids

What children are viewing

Young children have rapidly become prolific users of the internet, including watching online videos. While many of the videos are suitable, others use unscrupulous gimmicky methods to profit from a young and impressionable audience.

This is a very mild version of an edited Peppa Pig video.

My experience is that these videos fall into three categories.

  1. Parody cartoon videos: These depict well-known characters in violent or lewd situations. For example, there are videos of Elsa (from the Disney movie Frozen) angry and using a machine gun, and Paw Patrol characters (a Nickelodeon show popular among pre-schoolers) visiting a brothel.
  2. Disturbing imagery: Other clips depict disturbing imagery, characters or storylines. These include for example, Dad Punches Kid in Face, a video which depicts a father punching his young child in the face for “being naughty”.
  3. Sneaky advertising: Equally worrying, other videos elicit sneaky advertising tactics to persuade children to buy new products. For example, Ryan’s Toy Review is one such video channel with more than four billion views. While the content of this category of videos is generally not violent or sexual, it equates to children sitting in front of never-ending ads day after day.

Why kids watch these videos

The way that children engage with the questionable online videos can be perplexing, and worrying, for parents.

However, when put in the context of what we know about key behavioural characteristics of children as they develop, it’s not that surprising.

The videos often feature something that children are really interested in – toys, playing, and/or popular characters they know. If a child is a fan of the characters, or even owns some of the toys depicted in the video, the connection will be even stronger.

Many of the videos portray odd events. From a child development perspective, things that are unexpected – like an adult wearing a nappy, or their favourite wholesome character being evil – are a great source of humour for young children.

Everybody loves to unwrap stuff!

Many of these videos centre on taking a new present or toy out of a box. As any kid on Christmas morning will tell you, guessing what’s inside the wrapping is half the fun. It will also likely conjure up happy memories for the children of receiving a present themselves.

Some of the videos feature child presenters – children enjoy watching their peers on the screen, and they get pleasure from watching others open presents. The problem is that it can also fuel an incredible desire and anticipation for these particular toys or products.

Shady knock-offs, and no filters

Regardless of their amusing appeal to kids, children are seeing video content not produced by reputable content producers. Instead, they are knock-offs created by anonymous users with names such as Brick Man and Melon Troll. These channels game internet search algorithms to automatically play their video as soon as the last clip the child is watching finishes.

Read more: When exploiting kids for cash goes wrong on YouTube: the lessons of DaddyOFive

Even though a child may be on a video sharing platform for kids, this does not mean that all inappropriate content will be effectively filtered out. For example, a child might search “Peppa Pig” and whatever videos are titled or tagged with “Peppa Pig” appear on their search list. Based on the original search, more suggested videos then appear. Parents state that it is in the suggested videos that the worrying content often appears.

Online videos are a lucrative business, and to capitalise on this process, the algorithms are now informing what is produced. Hashtags and keywords now play a big part in the video content.

Recent research shows that as a result, children are increasingly exposed to videos containing advertising and disturbing images that are indistinguishable from regular programming.

A layer of ethics

An algorithmic approach removes a layer of ethics that is included when humans make decisions in production of content.

YouTube Kids is a very popular site on which kids watch these videos, and owner Google has pledged to improve its algorithms. Google states that amongst other changes, in the last week it terminated more than 50 channels and has removed thousands of videos under their newly revised Community Guidelines.

Another issue that must be addressed is allowing the option to turn off suggested videos automatically playing.

What parents can do

More than 300 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, which makes this issue difficult to manage. Amendments from Google will likely take a while.

It is therefore important parents use strategies to protect their family. Five steps parents can do right now are:

  1. Report and block anything inappropriate,
  2. Install an ad blocker (very easy to do and free),
  3. Turn on restricted mode
  4. Draw up a personal video playlist for your child much like a music playlist),
  5. Watch online videos with your child (not necessarily all of every video but enough to be familiar with what they are watching).

The online world is in a constant state of innovation, but it can be a positive part of life if we watch changes that occur, understand the effects on users and address concerns.

This article was written by:

Image of Joanne OrlandoJoanne Orlando – [Researcher: Technology and Learning, Western Sydney University]





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Grattan on Friday: Nationals force reluctant Turnbull to dress in Shorten’s banking clothes

Only a few months ago Bill Shorten would have thought that if he won the election he’d be delivering same-sex marriage and a royal commission into banks early in his government.

Now Malcolm Turnbull is bringing us both – in each case, his hand forced by a (different) group of rebel backbenchers.

The marriage bill, which will go through the House of Representatives next week, has some disgruntled conservatives arcing up after the Senate rejected their amendments, but Turnbull will mark it down as one of the achievements of his prime ministership.

It’s another matter with the banking royal commission. Seldom is a government’s impotence and frustration as much on display as it was when Turnbull finally capitulated and announced on Thursday that the government would establish the inquiry it has so long resisted and denounced.

For quite a time political hardheads had been arguing the government should accept the inevitable and “own” an inquiry. Well, now it does – and what a reluctant owner it is, miserable and bitter.

Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison lamented that setting up the royal commission, which covers superannuation and insurance providers as well as banking, was “regrettable but necessary”, driven by the political circumstances in which they found themselves.

In the end, there wasn’t a choice.

The bad result for the Liberal National Party in Saturday’s Queensland election strengthened the hand and determination of the federal rebel Nationals, set on pushing Nationals Barry O’Sullivan’s private senator’s bill for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry.

Two lower House Nationals, George Christensen and Llew O’Brien, were willing to cross the floor to give the bill the numbers there. In the background Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, on the New England campaign trail, was not resisting the flow. Joyce judged that if the issue reached the Nationals party room, the commission would get support.

The Nationals also knew an inquiry had strong public backing, a point underlined by an Essential poll this week showing 64% wanted a royal commission. That included 62% of Coalition voters.

The banks themselves came to accept that opposition had become too costly. In their Thursday letter to the government (flagged late Wednesday) advocating “a properly constituted inquiry”, the chairmen and chief executives of the four major banks said it was “in the national interest for the political uncertainty to end.

“It is hurting confidence in our financial services system, including in offshore markets, and has diminished trust and respect for our sector and people”, they wrote.

As Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Anna Bligh, former Queensland Labor premier, put it bluntly, it was too a big a risk to have a inquiry where the terms of reference and choice of commissioner were in “the hands of minor parties and fringe elements of the parliament”.

On Tuesday and Wednesday O’Sullivan, Turnbull and senior ministers sparred over the issue. O’Sullivan, a tough ex-cop from Queensland, says the government didn’t try to get him to drop his bill. Rather, it was attempting to “manage time”. He knew it was working on something, though he didn’t know what.

The ministers wanted to find out when his bill would be ready for the Senate. Some say O’Sullivan put it on pause. He denies this, saying his negotiations with the Greens and others and the preparation and printing processes pushed it back to early Thursday, which helped the government.

Cabinet met first thing that morning – Turnbull’s announcement was at a 9am news conference. The bill had done its job without having to make an actual appearance in parliament.

The government’s perennial arguments – until Thursday – against a royal commission have included that it would undermine international investor confidence in Australia’s banks and that an inevitably prolonged inquiry would have delayed the reforms the government has introduced or proposed.

The first proposition will be tested now that the inquiry is to proceed. It is doubtful, however, that overseas investors are as easily frightened as the government has been suggesting. They’re surely sophisticated enough to understand the fundamentals of our banking system, and those are sound.

The government has maintained its measures are adequate to address the issues but O’Sullivan and other proponents of an inquiry insisted they would not deal with the dimension of “culture”. The banks’ “profit before people” attitude, as Nationals senator John Williams puts it.

A circuit breaker is needed to restore public confidence in banks. But the material to emerge during the inquiry may lower that confidence further before there is any sign of its restoration.

The royal commission will be led by a former or serving judicial figure and will be asked to deliver a final report by February 1, 2019, with an interim report before that. The terms of reference will be tight: “it’s not going to be an inquiry into capitalism”, Turnbull said.

The Nationals’ brutal power play may deepen tensions between Liberals and the junior Coalition partner. Not that the Nationals care that much. Christensen didn’t hesitate to rub salt into Turnbull’s open wound. “I just don’t understand why it took a number of National Party backbenchers to drag the Prime Minister kicking and screaming to this decision,” he said, in a cutting but pertinent observation.

O’Sullivan was more diplomatic, speaking of Turnbull “making his own journey.” A journey, it might be said, under armed escort.

Meanwhile the Nationals were relishing shades of the 1937 royal commission into the banking system. As a Senate report of a few years ago recounted, “At the 1935 election the Country Party (and the Labor Party) had promised an inquiry and when the conservative government led by Joseph Lyons was forced to form a coalition with the Country Party, he agreed to establish an inquiry”.

If it had responded much earlier to the pressure for an inquiry the government could have hoped to reap credit for appreciating the depth of public complaints and concerns.

As it is, with its grudging decision through gritted teeth, it doesn’t seem to be looking for plaudits.

But the political reality is that by establishing the royal commission it has neutralised one of Shorten’s issues.

For all that, it could be a Shorten government that deals with the commission’s ultimate recommendations. By the time the final report rolls round, an election will be imminent, assuming the royal commission runs on time and the government runs full term.

This article was written by:
Michelle Grattan – [Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra]





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Indigenous cultural appropriation: what not to do

 A souvenir stand in the Canary Islands 
displaying boomerangs (on the right).

The words made me cringe at first with their echoes of an old, racist song made famous by Rolf Harris. “I am sick of buying my grandchildren woomeras that won’t throw a spear, boomerangs that won’t come back, and bullroarers that don’t roar,” said Bob Katter in a recent submission to parliament.

I don’t even know if boomerangs were ever meant to come back. Maybe it was coincidental when they did, but I’m pretty sure returning is not the boomerang’s primary purpose from a First Nations perspective.

Still, there was serious intent behind Katter’s submission on the production of fake Australian First Nations art. Today, up to 85% of art sold through tourism markets as First Nations souvenirs is fake and imported. Lost revenue from this major income stream has a harmful effect on everything from self-determination and cultural maintenance to families and communities.

In introducing a bill making it illegal to sell fake Indigenous art, Katter has re-ignited attention to artistic appropriation and rip-offs. But the stereotyping, disrespect and blatant theft of First Nations culture happens in many fields. The one that especially gets to me is hippy, New Age, non-Indigenous spiritualisation of our heritage.

For instance, WTF is a didjeridu massage? Yep, “didge therapy” is a thing. Apparently, paying to have someone blow a didjeridu over your body is reported to provide relief for a wide range of joint, muscular and skeletal-related pain as well as promote accelerated healing in various forms of bone trauma.

Seriously! On hearing about this practice, many of my mob have suggested a preferred area of the human body where such “therapists” might concentrate on shoving their didjeridus.

A didjeridu is applied to someone’s head in Vancouver, Canada.
A didjeridu is applied to someone’s head in Vancouver, Canada. Michael Kwan

This appropriation shows a serious lack of understanding and respect of protocols. The need to find/discover one’s self via the culture and heritage of a different people is nonsensical to me. Here are some other areas of irritation and appropriation that would make us cry if we didn’t have such a deadly cathartic sense of humour.

Identity and connection

I know this is a very sensitive area of discussion because of the stolen generations, but don’t try to relate to me by announcing some new-found “distant” connection or relation to a First Nations person.

For example: I know a First Nations person, I have an Aboriginal friend, my niece/nephew is married to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, my neighbours were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, or I dreamt my identity and I feel an affiliation/spirituality with First Nations culture … Big deal!

This doesn’t make you black because proximity is not a valid criterion. It’s commonly known that identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander is complex and there’s much more involved. It’s a lived experience.


Sis. Sista. Bro. Bala. Deadly. Gammon. Cuz. Oh it’s just torture to my ears. I’m not your sis. You’re not my bro. Do you really know when to use deadly and gammon/gammin? I’m not your cuz.

Seriously stop trying to use and steal colloquial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language. It doesn’t sound cool, it sounds ridiculous. So in case you missed it … Take a look at ABC Black Comedy: Black White Woman Part 1.

The look

Just as proximity can’t identify you, the overindulgence in First Nations colour and adornment won’t bring you any closer to being donned with a traditional name, or get you acceptance into a nation/clan.

Appropriating First Nations tattoo designs, braided hair, overuse of spray tanning, collagen lips, red-black-and-yellow everything doesn’t make you blend in. You just stand out like a wanna be First Nations queen of the desert.

Knowledge and education

That’s right, someone told you a Dreamtime story somewhere, or you read it in a book written by a non-First Nations academic or writer, from a non-First Nations perspective … so you know more about my own culture, language and heritage than I do.

Oh yeah and you’ve driven your campervan around Australia engaging in Kumbaya campfire singalongs and numerous appropriated versions of the song Guri Ina Nami. Plus, you’ve been to the Northern Territory where the “real” black fullas are … Whatever!


The yidaki (didjeridu) has got to be one of the most appropriated items of First Nations heritage and culture. Originating from Arnhem Land, its use is widespread and, apart from busking white women and men commercialising and making careers out of playing this instrument, a more recent offensive practice is its inclusion in the New Age healing and health industry.

A didge player at Portobello Market in London.
A didge player at Portobello Market in London. Genial 23/flickr

The exploitation of First Nations art, culture and heritage continues to be rife. Appropriation has become so commonplace that it has even infiltrated the practices of our own First Nations artists, e.g. copying another nation’s visual arts style and design and producing artefacts and materials that originate from that nation.

For whatever reason this is done – a disconnection from identity and culture, for financial and material gain – it saddens me and leaves me with a sense of loss that we can’t discern between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation, but that’s another story.

This article was written by:
Image of Angelina HurleyAngelina Hurley – [Lecturer in Indigenous Literacies, Victoria University]






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The new ticketing technology that may make scalping a thing of the past

 Is there anything more frustrating than  
paying artificially inflated ticket prices from second parties?

Anew anti-scalping laws are introduced in Victoria, our research suggests that frustrations with current ticketing systems may be a contributing factor to the continued success of scalpers. But new technologies are on the horizon that will help.

Scalping is the practice of buying event tickets and then on-selling them at a higher price. Our research found that one in five fans surveyed had at some time purchased tickets from scalpers globally, with males more likely to engage in this behaviour.

We surveyed fans from Australia, New Zealand, North America, and the United Kingdom, 19% of whom admitted to purchasing tickets from scalpers. In addition, almost 30% had used third-party re-seller websites (such as Viagogo).

These figures can be partly explained by frustrations among fans with the current ticketing systems – as well as the increased sophistication of scalpers.

Online ticket sales impact on scalping

In past decades, ticket scalpers were a common presence around venues, selling tickets on the day of the event to anyone who turned up without one. Yet the development of online technologies has transformed the secondary ticketing market into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Increasingly, sophisticated computer programs (robots or “bots”) can make multiple, repeated requests from ticketing company websites in seconds – at the expense of the average fan. Third party ticket resellers may then charge as much as a A$37.50 booking fee and a A$4.95 handling fee on top of an inflated or inaccurate ticket price.

Protecting the fans

In Victoria, amendments to the Major Events Act will see fines of up to A$475,000 for anyone selling tickets “at a price greater than 10% above the original sale price of the ticket”. In Queensland, it is illegal to resell or buy tickets at more than 10% above the original ticket price, while in New South Wales it will soon be an offence to resell tickets at more than 10% of the original sale price. Significantly, the updated NSW legislation will also outlaw the software that has enabled bots.

In remains to be seen how effective these new measures will be.

Established anti-scalping laws in the US have had little impact on the secondary ticket market. Scalpers adapt their methods and find ways to feign compliance with legislation. More importantly, some fans will go to any lengths to watch their team play.

How satisfied are fans?

From our survey results below, fans appear to be satisfied with the ticket purchasing experience, although males are more likely to be satisfied than females.

Many cited the ease of purchasing tickets online and the ability to select a specific seat as important factors. Being able to buy tickets at the first attempt is generally linked to greater satisfaction with the purchase experience.

There were some significant differences in satisfaction depending on how tickets were purchased. Although fans suggest that they enjoyed being able to purchase tickets online, they were more satisfied when they bought tickets from a box office or at the venue.

For anyone who has recently purchased a ticket to a major event, the areas of dissatisfaction may be unsurprising. Respondents cited factors including booking fees being added to the cost of the ticket (also known as drip pricing), having to pay printing costs, inflexibility of seating options, and poorly functioning websites among their key complaints.

As noted above, complaints about ticketing websites were common. Fans cited “congested websites”, “servers [that] can’t handle the volume”, and “getting beaten for tickets by bots” as reasons why they could not buy tickets. If legislation alone can’t stop scalpers, new approaches to ticketing may be required.

Beating the bots

Internationally, there have been some interesting developments amongst teams, venues and ticketing companies that may eliminate scalping and improve the ticketing experience. It may not be long before all fans can take advantage of innovations such as mobile-only tickets, biometric access, and even microchipped tickets.

The Miami Heat became the first NBA team to ditch paper tickets, switching to “mobile-only” ticketing. They cite the convenience and simplicity of managing tickets as well as providing fans with guaranteed ticket authenticity as reasons for this change.

Also in the US, there are now seven Major League Baseball stadiums that offer a biometric fingerprint scanning program which enables “frictionless access” to the venue, creating a faster and more exclusive fan experience.

Accessing stadiums with fingerprint scanner technology.

Biochip implant.
Biochip implant. Daily Mail Australia
Argentine football club Tigre went further in 2016 and launched a new ticketing scheme that allowed fans to be microchipped with their season pass. These implantable ticketing microchips proved to be popular amongst die-hard fans.Some ticketing companies are also investing in technology aimed at combating scalping. Ticketmaster US have created a “Verified Fan” program that allows fans to be verified before the tickets come on sale to speed up the process.

Start-ups moving in

A number of start-ups are looking to challenge existing ticketing process and stop touting. Companies to look for include:

Citizen Ticket: Billing itself as an “ethical service”, this company ensures that all transactions are recorded publicly and permanently. Their ticket delivery system, called BitTicket, allows the life cycle of a ticket to be tracked, eradicating touts, fraud, and unregulated resale.

ShieldSquare: Dubbed the “bot police”, this company is one of the pioneers in bot mitigation, blocking ticket bots and encourage genuine ticket buyers.

Ticketmaster Presence: Paper tickets are replaced with digital passes using proximity-based technology to enable a “tap and go” venue entry system. Smart devices, such as a phone or a watch, are used to enter the venue.

Ticketmaster Presence ‘Tap and Go’

The future of ticketing is paperless

Looking to the future, it may not be long until tickets are physically linked to individuals and our iconic sporting venues are accessed with the swipe of an appendage.

In such a world, paper tickets will become a thing of the past. One cannot feel that something is lost without the physical memento of a sporting event provided by a ticket stub. The scalpers and bots have much to answer for.





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Queensland result, while decided on state issues, adds to Turnbull’s burdens

 The Queensland state election result makes 
the byelection in Bennelong on December 16 even more important. 

The Queensland election was decided overwhelmingly on state factors, as Malcolm Turnbull was quick to say on Sunday, but inevitably it has fallout for the Prime Minister.

Four implications are obvious in the result, which ABC election analyst Antony Green predicts will be a majority Labor government, while Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch suggests is more likely to be an ALP minority one.

First, it elevates even higher the importance of the December 16 byelection in Bennelong. Second, it will further unsettle an already depressed and jittery federal backbench. Third, the federal Queensland Coalition MPs will want greater attention from the government.

Finally, the Nationals – in particular the Queensland Nationals – will accelerate a trend that’s been obvious recently, which is to differentiate their brand.

Bennelong was always destined to be significant, from the moment Liberal MP John Alexander resigned (some government sources think prematurely) in the citizenship crisis. But now that things have gone badly for the Liberal National Party (LNP) in a state that looms so large for the federal Coalition, the stakes rise.

Turnbull was campaigning in Bennelong on Sunday, falling back on the tried and trusted ground of border protection, claiming that “right now the people smugglers are using Kristina Keneally’s articles, her statements on this, as a marketing tool” (an assertion surely worthy of a fact check).

He has to get deeply involved in this seat, which is on a 9.7% margin, but the flip side is that the more effort Turnbull puts in, the more he’d be personally identified with a big swing, let alone a loss. On the other hand, if the swing were contained, that would help him.

Psychologically, the Queensland result will send the Coalition’s federal members deeper into the funk caused by the unending run of bad polls and multiple problems engulfing the government. This will accentuate instability and ill discipline, although there is no tangible challenge to Turnbull’s leadership at this point.

The Queensland vote reinforces the now familiar message that people are turned off the major parties. The mid-30s primary votes for Labor (around 36%) and LNP (about 34%) scream disillusionment.

One Nation polled solidly in minor party terms (around 14%) and very strongly in its heartlands, but it couldn’t turn that into the swag of seats it had boasted about. Pauline Hanson’s party fell victim to the inflated expectations it had raised, while the LNP vote fell victim to One Nation.

The result shows the One Nation phenomenon, in terms of its ability to erode the conservative vote, remains a worry, but it does not look like a party on the move.

The Queensland result particularly resonates in Canberra because of how vital that state will be to the Coalition come the election. Federal government members from Queensland will be defensively assertive.

Even before the election, internal chatter had it that senior Queensland Liberal George Brandis would not move out of parliament in the coming reshuffle, as earlier predicted. Revamping cabinet without Brandis while preserving strong Queensland representation would be challenging – and Turnbull could not afford to have Queensland seen to be downgraded.

The federal Queensland Nationals are determined to strengthen their efforts to distinguish themselves from the Liberals and Turnbull.

Nationals cabinet minister Matt Canavan said on Sunday the state result was a “confirmation of how important it is to have a strong National party at a federal level”.

Nationals MP George Christensen went so far as to issue an apology to One Nation voters. It won’t endear him to Turnbull, but he won’t care. One Nation is on track to win Mirani – from Labor – a seat that adjoins Christensen’s electorate with a small overlap.

He tweeted:

Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan believes the result shows One Nation is not a threat in terms of House of Representatives seats, but highlights the need for the Coalition to fill the vacuum that party has occupied.

“Malcolm can’t do it himself,” O’Sullivan says. Rather, he says, Turnbull has to allow the Nationals to do this.

O’Sullivan is not one who advocates the de-amalgamation of the LNP in Queensland – as some are doing – but a “divisionalisation”, reinforcing the message of the separate Liberal and Nationals strands within the one party.

This is already underway, with O’Sullivan’s bill for a broad-ranging commission of inquiry into banking and other financial institutions, on which he will have final consultations with sympathisers within the Coalition and other parties on Monday.

He then intends to move a motion in the Senate to have it dealt with immediately after the marriage bill is finished there, and debated until it is resolved. Christensen is ready to back it in the lower house.

Treasurer Scott Morrison is still trying to land initiatives to show the government is acting on the banks, short of a royal commission.

One wonders what Peter Dutton, Liberal holder of a marginal Brisbane seat, who last week was open to the government softening its opposition to a royal commission, is thinking right now.

This article was written by:

Michelle Grattan – [Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra]




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Uber was hacked, so change your password right now. Here’s what else you need to know

 The public disclosures Uber has made so far make it 
very difficult to identify Australians caught up in the data breach.

Uber has admitted that a 2016 data breach put at risk the personal information of 57 million Uber users worldwide and at least 600,000 drivers in the United States.

The ride-share firm’s CEO said that:

two individuals outside the company had inappropriately accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service that we use.

Now it has been reported that Australian riders and drivers are part of the data breach.

It would be prudent for Australian Uber users and drivers to change their passwords as soon as possible. Here’s what else you need to know:

If you use Uber, your name, email address and mobile phone number may have been leaked

Uber says:

Rider information [put at risk in this data breach] included the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers related to accounts globally. Our outside forensics experts have not seen any indication that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers or dates of birth were downloaded.

Breaches of this kind can mean an increase in people receiving spam email. Some experts have said that any personal information could be worth something to criminals.

What evidence is there that the hack included data from Australian users of Uber?

The public disclosures Uber has made so far make it very difficult to identify Australians caught up in the data breach. That’s because the firm was not very transparent about it.

Media reports that Uber worked hard to conceal the data breach suggest Uber’s corporate governance needs improvement.

In its recent statement on the data breach, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged the firm’s “failure to notify affected individuals or regulators last year” and promised to do better.

I’m an Uber driver. What do I need to know?

Uber has said:

Driver information included the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers related to accounts globally. In addition, the driver’s license numbers of around 600,000 drivers in the United States were downloaded.

As with the message to riders, Uber says it has seen no indication that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or dates of birth were downloaded.

The firm says that it is directly notifying affected drivers by mail or email, and is offering them free credit monitoring and identity theft protection – but, in any case, it’s a good idea for any Uber driver to change their password.

The longer-term issue is that news of the hack might conceivably dissuade some people from using Uber at all, which would be bad news for drivers.

So a fundamental part of Uber’s crisis management strategy should be educating drivers on how to respond to consumer questions about data privacy. This will not only assure the drivers but also help rebuild the trust of customers.

That said, it is pre-Christmas party time in cities throughout the world, and that means boom time for the Uber, taxi and personal transport industries.

So it’s easy to imagine there would be only a small impact on Uber drivers over this period.

What’s the cost of online convenience?

Uber is not the first and won’t be the last to be involved in a data breach. As transactions are increasingly made over the internet, it is highly likely Australians will fall victim to more and more data hacks.

Consumers who may be left out-of-pocket, receiving increased spam email and risking other privacy breaches such as identity theft may be less than loyal to firms that don’t look after their data.

Moreover, as there is money and influence to be gained through online data crime, it is highly likely that criminals will become better organised to reap the incentives in a very strategic manner.

It’s worth remembering that, in many cases, the cost of convenience for using a service over the internet is your private information.

Many people do not read the terms and conditions they agreed to for internet transactions, and they may shocked by the level of exposure they face.

Consumers accept financial and privacy risk by trading over the internet, all for the sake of cheap tickets, discount car rides and other conveniences.

As these breaches happen more often, it may be impossible to totally avoid one’s exposure to internet-based transactions and online data storage. So there will likely be increasing pressure on politicians and regulators to add some real teeth to prosecutions (although many seem to be based in difficult-to-prosecute jurisdictions).

The Australian government’s notifiable data breach scheme will start on February 22, 2018. It only applies to eligible data breaches that occur on, or after, that date.

How can Uber prevent this from happening again?

In the short term, Uber says it has “implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts”.

The longer-term problem is changing the attitudes that led to the data breach being concealed for so long.

When Dara Khosrowshahi took over as Uber’s CEO last August, hopes were high that he would soften some aspects of the extreme-performance culture that led to earlier ethical lapses in Uber.

There may be a perception among consumers that the firm’s desire to keep secret its intellectual property relating to algorithms has spread to its broader operations.

A good start for Uber would be to increase its public reporting on its operations. A widely publicised code of ethics, whistleblowing protections and ethics training for all staff would certainly not go amiss.

This article was co-authored by:
Image of Rohan MillerRohan Miller – [Senior Lecturer, Marketing and Digital Business, University of Sydney]
Image of David OliveDavid Oliver – [Senior Lecturer in Management, University of Sydney]






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Grattan on Friday: Discovery of the cabinet leaker would present bigger problem than the leak

 For Julie Bishop the latest leak is a rerun of  
an old movie. Lukas Coch/AAP

What on earth was Julie Bishop thinking when she declared she’d support a “formal investigation” into this week’s damaging cabinet leak?

Bishop was defending herself as the questions swirled about who might be the leaker, saying it wasn’t her. But to have one of the most senior ministers – she’s deputy Liberal leader too – talking about a probe into cabinet members just underlines the serious breakdown not just in the government’s discipline but in its common sense as well.

The leaked story was by the Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson, reporting that a “despondent”: cabinet had discussed, in the context of the backbench revolt on banking, whether the government should capitulate and hold a royal commission.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said no; Peter Dutton, one of the conservatives who has had Malcolm Turnbull’s back, was reported to be “opposed in principle” but open to the idea on pragmatic grounds. But Turnbull remains against changing policy and has said this publicly.

For Bishop the affair is a rerun of an old movie. After a leak from the Abbott cabinet, Bishop denied being the source, saying that if the prime minister found the culprit he would “take some action”.

In retrospect, if not always at the time, it seems obvious the 2015 leaks were mostly inspired by those wanting a coup.

This time, the “who” and the “why” aren’t clear. There is no evidence of any organised push against Turnbull, like there was against Abbott, although leadership speculation has become media grist.

The leaks, of which there have been several, may be driven by the general angst around or reflect jostling by various players in uncertain times.

We’ve seen publicly the respective positioning by Morrison and Dutton on the marriage legislation, with Morrison putting himself at the forefront of the “safeguards” brigade and Dutton – on this issues as on others – looking for a compromise way through.

Anyway, there won’t be an investigation. The Australian Federal Police almost never finds the source of leaks to the media, but imagine if it had an unexpected success! That indeed would present a problem.

Bill Shorten described the situation as the government eating itself. Alternatively, think of an army in untidy retreat, sloshing through heavy mud, when it becomes every soldier for himself.

We’re back to the Gillard days or, for those with a sense of history, to the Liberal party of the late 1960s, as it lost its way in the post-Menzies years.

Despite cabinet’s now well-canvassed discussion, the government is still faced with the push from the Nationals’ rebels for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry (only marginally different from a royal commission) into the banks.

Turnbull has tried to minimise the scope for the rebels and Labor to make trouble by cancelling next week’s House of Representatives sitting, but the action just exposed his weakness.

The rebels are unbowed with Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan on Thursday circulating his private senator’s bill for “a commission of inquiry into banking, insurance, superannuation, financial and related services”.

O’Sullivan confirms he is determined. “I’m not someone who blinks”, he said. He dismissed suggestions his absent leader, Barnaby Joyce, was trying to dissuade him. He’d spoken to Joyce early on – Joyce just “asked me to keep him posted”.

It should be remembered the Nationals generally have no problem in cracking down on the banks. In fact, if a proposal for a royal commission were put to the Nationals’ party room, it would likely get up. Nationals assistant minister Keith Pitt was blunt on Thursday: “Clearly the government’s position is not for a royal commission, however we do have a number of members in the Nats who think it’s something that they want”.

Amid the tumult, former prime minister John Howard has used the occasion of Friday’s tenth anniversary of being turfed out of office to buy into the contemporary debates on banking and taxation.

The latter debate was reignited after Turnbull held out the prospect of personal income tax relief in a major address on Monday, albeit devoid of detail. On Thursday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was dealing with scepticism about its affordability, arguing “we have effectively already assumed future further tax cuts in our budget projections”.

Howard claimed a banking commission would be “rank socialism” – to which O’Sullivan says, “I don’t understand what he means”.

As for tax, Howard, who nearly lost office in his (successful) pursuit of a GST, told Sky it would benefit the government “if it were to embrace very significant further tax reform”. This should include the GST, which couldn’t be left “where it is indefinitely”.

The best of luck with that. Turnbull is tossing tax into the mix to try to show voters he has some sugar in his back pocket to put on their tables. But sweeping reform would see losers as well as winners. For a government perennially behind in the polls, with the slenderest majority before it fell into its current minority position, a major tax overhaul including the GST would take more bravery than presently in sight.

The tenth anniversary of the Howard government’s defeat is also the anniversary of the loss of his own seat of Bennelong. Now the Liberals are again fighting to hold Bennelong, after John Alexander became a victim of the citizenship crisis.

It is too early to get a real sense of how that December 16 byelection will go. On a 9.7 % margin, Alexander has a big buffer, as he faces Labor’s Kristina Keneally.

But this week the Liberal campaign, already looking lack lustre, was snagged by an embarrassing 1990s video of Alexander telling a crude Irish joke and another about “a black guy in Chicago” describing a rape.

Alexander wasn’t the only government byelection candidate who became an embarrassment. There was Joyce’s jaunt from his New England campaign to Canberra for “AgDay”, described as the “brainchild” of his good friend Gina Rinehart, who presented him with a $40,000 cheque, reward for being a “champion of our industry”. He only belatedly declined the money.

It was another example of the poor judgement that infects this government.

This article was written by:

Michelle Gratton – [Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra]





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We’re drafting a legal guide to war in space. Hopefully we’ll never need to use it





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