Letter to the Editor Canberra Times Feb 12th

Letter to the Editor Canberra Times Feb 12th

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions we need to invest in ways to generate energy without producing greenhouse gases. To invest we need money. The most obvious place to find money is by putting a surcharge on energy sources that also produce greenhouse gases – not a tax but a surcharge similar to the 9% compulsory savings for superannuation. The money collected is saved for the purchaser in a Savings Account owned by the purchaser but it can ONLY be spent on ways to reduce greenhouse gases. That way we do not tax people but we get everyone to SAVE for the planet. Because we have a lot of people with funds to invest then markets will arise to meet the demand.

We will achieve our objective of reducing emissions without complicated trading schemes and with a market. The market is not in carbon credits but in ways to reduce greenhouse gases. We can start saving immediately. The rate at which carbon emissions will come down will be determined by the size of the surcharge. The approach has little inflationary effect because the surcharge is a savings and is not a tax. The money will be spent carefully because each of us has an interest in spending wisely and getting the best return on our savings.

We can start saving today by putting existing taxes on energy and resources into savings accounts. Anyone interested can open a “Save the Planet” Savings Account and the Government puts the already collected taxes into the accunts on an equal basis.
We have a budget surplus and the population would welcome this way of reducing the surplus.
We can help save the planet while making the electorate wealthier.

Save not Trade

Save not Trade
Creating tradeable water allocations for urban communities has been promoted as an alternative to water restrictions. The idea has theoretical merit but it would be difficult for urban household users to accept and operate. It is unlikely to lead to investment in water infrastructure because it does not solve the underlying problem of a single natural monopoly urban water supplier. It will solve the problem of urban water restrictions by rationing on price and it may be appropriate for large commercial users and irrigators who have genuine alternatives and a commercial reason for using water but for most urban water users water is a relatively low expenditure and for most uses it is price inelastic.

Urban users do not want to become urban water traders. They do not want to go to the effort of trying to work out their consumption of water and they do not want to have to pay large amounts of extra money for water they have already consumed. They want certainty over the availability of water and the price of the water and they do not want water restrictions. Urban water users do not use water for profit making activities. There is no price/benefit equation and the price required to cause someone to reduce the number of times they will flush the toilet is many times the current cost of one or two cents.

Already in cities like Canberra consumers pay on average $1.65 per kilolitre for water which is above the cost of supply obtained through increasing the storage capacity of existing dams – or in coastal cities the cost of desalination.

The price of water is already high enough to pay the marginal cost of increasing water supply. As this is the case we have to ask the question on why we have water restrictions? Increasing the price of water through trading schemes may replace water restrictions by edict with water restrictions by price but it will not solve the problem of increasing the supply. If increased supply was only dependant on price then it would have happened already. If this is true then Water Trading is unlikely to increase supply and is likely to make the situation worse.

A likely scenario is for monopoly water suppliers to decrease supply below the sustainability level so as to increase scarcity and so increase the cost. The monopoly supplier will then release some water to meet the demand at the higher rate. This is what has happened with existing urban water supplies where the monopoly supplier has taken large profits, not increased supply and has restricted consumption when there is a drought by water restrictions. Allowing the monopoly supply to increase prices as the rationing mechanism is almost guaranteeing that prices will increase and that supply will continue to be limited. The monopoly supplier will not only not increase supply but continue to restrict other organisations increasing supply water through such ideas as storm water harvesting.

The temptation to increase the financial yield by limiting the supply of water in times of plenty as well as times of scarcity will be very difficult for governments of all persuasion to resist.

The Efficiency of Carbon Credits in Reducing Green House Gases

Carbon Credits have been invented as a method of controlling carbon emissions. The amount of Carbon Credits issued reflects the amount of carbon emissions allowed. That is, Carbon Credits are a commodity which if we reduce the supply of the commodity will reduce the amount of emissions. The problem with Carbon Credits is in limiting the supply and in distributing the money obtained from selling the commodity and making sure the money is used for the purpose of reducing Green House Gas emissions.

Another complementary approach to Carbon Credits is to invent a new currency which we will call Cleans. This currency can only be spent on infrastructure that will reduce Green House Gases. Examples are insulation for homes, solar hot water systems, investment in solar farms, etc. When Cleans are spent they are converted back to real currencies.

Cleans can be created in different ways but are always backed by real currencies because when a Clean is spent then it reverts to a real currency. One way to create Cleans is to take the money collected by from the sale of Carbon Credits and to convert it into Cleans. Another way is to put a surcharge on any energy that produces Green House Gases and to create some Cleans.

Once Cleans are created then we have to give them to someone. Cleans can be given to people whose lifestyles generate few greenhouse gases or they could be given to anyone whose actions cause their creation. The important thing is to give them to a large number of people so that there will be many buyers in the market place for infrastructure to reduce Green House Gases.

AusRegistrations Privacy Impact Asses…

AusRegistrations Privacy Impact Assessment


1. PIA Scope

2. AusRegistrations

3. Mapping the information flows

4. Privacy Impact Analysis

1. PIA Scope

The scope of this document is to assess the potential impact to users of the AusRegistrations service based on current Australian privacy laws. It has been prepared with reference to the Privacy Impact Assessment Guide 2006 by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and to Privacy Impact Assessments – a Guide, issued by the Victorian Privacy Commissioner in 2004.

By its nature, AusRegistrations involves the voluntary provision of identifying information by individuals and organisations. Therefore this assessment places particular emphasis on how AusRegistrations manages users’ rights in relation to privacy, data security and quality, and the ability for individuals to access and correct their data held within AusRegistrations. It also reviews the safeguards in place to prevent criminal use of this information with regard to identity theft or the creation of multiple identities.

The format of this document follows the list of ten National Privacy Principles as extracted from the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000.

2. AusRegistrations

AusRegistrations is registry of relationships between individuals and organisations. It provides those individuals and organisations with verified information to assist in the establishment and registration of their relationships. In addition it provides those individuals and organisations with greater control over the information they provide and how that information is used.

Verification of information can occur at whatever level of detail is required and agreed to between the organisation and the individual. It can be as simple as the provision of name, email address or telephone number, or it may involve more detailed data. If contractual or confidential matters are involved, it may also require confirmed biometric data such as a photograph or voice print.

Through the verification process, AusRegistrations facilitates electronic communication, allowing organisations to verify that the person they are dealing with is indeed who they say they are.

3. Mapping the data flow

When an organisation and an individual establish a relationship, the information that is provided by the individual is first verified by the organisation. For example, a student may enrol at a tertiary institution. As part of the registration process the student supplies the institution with a photograph to be used on an ID card. A representative of the institution then verifies that the photograph truly does represent the person enrolling. Other organisations may identify people with a user code and/or password.

After confirming their identity to the organisation, the individual may be invited by the organisation to link to AusRegistrations where they can include their voice print and/or photograph, plus the details of the registration can be included in their AusRegistration records. The benefit for the individual is faster, easier access to telephone or Internet assistance and the assurance of greater security, knowing that only they can access their information.

The person may now register additional relationships with other agencies or organisations as required. If a person has an electronic identity with a financial institution, the person identifies themselves as normal and can then request that their relationship with the bank be registered. That is, they log on to the bank system, prove they have access to their other records and prove that the information held about them by other organisations matches the information held by the bank. Once the relationship is registered, the person has increased their number of verified relationships.

Ultimately all relationships that a person has with all organisations can be recorded in AusRegistrations, creating a personal “safe” that holds none of the data about the person but instead maintains a central record of the right-of-access to a multitude of relationships.

It is important to highlight that in addition to containing none of the data about an individual, AusRegistrations does not hold passwords or other security mechanisms required to access the information on the systems registered with AusRegistrations.

4. Privacy Impact Analysis

The Privacy Impact Assessment Guide[1] highlights a number of activities that can increase privacy risks throughout the cycle of data collection, use and dissemination. Those concerns are listed here and are addressed throughout this section.

  • collecting unnecessary or irrelevant personal information, or intrusive collection,
  • undertaking bulk collection of personal information, some of which is unnecessary or irrelevant
  • using personal information for unplanned secondary purposes
  • unnecessary or unplanned data linkage
  • disclosures not originally planned can lead to privacy complaints
  • making decisions based on poor quality data
  • unauthorised internal and external access and use
  • retaining personal information unnecessarily
  • inaccurate information can cause problems for agencies and individuals

4.1 Collection

AusRegistrations is a voluntary system. People do not have to register and do not have to use the system for identification. Each individual is in control of their own registrations and the information cannot be accessed without the individual’s permission. It meets all the requirements of the Privacy Act.

Organisations are also assured of confidentiality as they can place restrictions on the individual’s release of information to other parties as part of the registration agreement. For example, an organisation may specify that the information in the registration can be released but not the name of the organisation with whom the individual is registered.

Scope of Collection

AusRegistrations maps the relationships between an individual and any number of organisations; or between an organisation and any number of individuals. No information other than that required to create an AusRegistrations’ account is gathered or maintained by AusRegistration. Account creation is performed by logging in to www.ausregistrations.com.au and entering the following:

  • email address
  • name
  • address
  • a self-created Personal Identity Number (PIN).

While AusRegistrations facilitates the electronic communication between two parties, it plays no part in defining the contents of the data shared by the organisation and individual. This is a matter agreed to between the two parties, based on the nature and any possible legal requirements of their relationship.

Once an individual has entered verified information into a data field – such as a voice print, a photograph, their name or telephone number – the individual can then choose to use these verified fields when registering future relationships. Hence a photograph stored at, and verified by the Passports Office could be used as proof of identity in establishing future relationships. Or the voice print held by a telecommunications provider could enable a secure log-in when dealing with a financial institution.[2]

The individual is the only person with access, and the ability, to input data about themselves, while responsibility for management and storage of data resulting from each of these relationships lies with the organisation in each instance.


The PIN is solely for use by AusRegistrations. Its single function is to enable the individual to log in to their own record of registrations. It will not enable access to the data contained within the relationships, as each organisation will have its own log-in requirements. The PIN is is a security measure and is never passed on to other organisations (thus ensuring that there is no common identifier used throughout the relationships).

All actual data about the relationship between an individual and an organisation continues to reside in the organisation’s database.

The data shared between individuals and organisations is provided voluntarily by both parties. It is the individual who takes responsibility for entering the registration, ensuring that the individual retains control over the data that is entered and how it is edited, updated or changed.

Method of Collection

During the registration of any new relationships the organisation will be required to verify the individual’s identity. This may be as simple providing a password or as complex as two or three factor authentication including use of biometrics. An online bookshop for example may require only an email address and password, while a bank may stipulate far greater security involving a PIN, password and voice print. The method used is up to the organisation.

AusRegistrations also offers biometric data capture as an option for all users. Individuals are responsible for registering their “face” and “voice” by putting in their own photograph and voice print. These are then verified as belonging to that individual by others such as their accountant, tax agent, lawyer, school teacher, lecturer, minister of religion.

Biometric data, as with all other personal data except ways of contacting the person, is maintained and stored by the initiating organisation, not AusRegistrations. For example voice prints are stored in a Telstra database while the phone number to contact the person is stored in AusRegistrations.

4.2 Use and Disclosure

The data collected by AusRegistrations is to identify the user in order to provide him or her access to their register of relationships. The data is not shared with, or disclosed to any other person or agency.

At all times the individual chooses what data they want to provide to the organisations and there is no obligation on any individual to register their relationships.

Data Linking

However, if the individual chooses, he or she can provide data that will be XML tagged and linked across multiple relationships, such as filling in “name” or “address” data fields that are likely to be requested in additional relationships. Thereafter, any update to the data field with one of these organisations will result in an update being provided to all other relationships that are part of this linked tag. The individual and the organisation both have control over whether they wish to allow this to happen.

Similarly, the user may request that a verified biometric be used as part of their other relationships. For example, the individual may register a voice print with a telecommunications provider so that it may then be used for verification when contacting telephone support at a government agency or financial institution.

Data linkage may only be conducted at the instigation of the individual and with the approval of the organisation.

Data Matching

Information relating to each separate relationship is maintained in separate “silos” or databases, with each organisation responsible for the management of their own data. Data matching can only occur across AusRegistrations under either of two circumstances:

  1. when the individual and verifying organisation permit, such as when submitting biometric or other data for verification to a new relationship, or
  2. when illegal activities are suspected and an appropriate government agency has gone through due legal process to obtain access to that individual’s AusRegistrations records.

Data matching cannot be carried out in any other way through AusRegistrations. Thus if data matching occurs either the user has given permission or it is as a result of a due legal process.

4.3 Data Quality

The individual is the only person to input or authorise data about themselves, ensuring control over any personal data and the ability to correct and update the information at any time.

Where a data field has been linked across a number of relationships, a single update in one place can result in the automatic updating of records across all relationships. If the field is one that requires verification by the organisation (such as changing address for correspondence with a bank), the organisation’s normal verification procedures will be undertaken before the update is accepted.

4.4 Data Security

Identity Fraud Protection

The system is designed to ensure that individuals can have only one verified set of identification information in AusRegistrations, making it impossible to use for identity fraud. The uniqueness of a set of records is achieved in two ways: first by involving multiple organisation registrations and second, through biometrics.

The complexity of recording multiple relationships makes it extremely difficult for one person to hold more than one electronic access record. For an individual to have two distinct sets of registration records would require the collaboration of many organisations and people.

Births, Deaths and Marriages registrations, for example, not only register an individual but also the relationship between parties. Thus when a person is married and the marriage is registered, both parties are registered as married and there is also a registration implied between the two parties. When a birth is registered there is an implied relationship between all members of the family and the extended family. If someone tried to register themselves as a person who had died, all other members of the family would be sent an email that the registration had been attempted.

Identity fraud demands comprehensive physical disguise to ensure biometric details appear completely differently on separate registrations. When a person registers with an organisation that requires photo identification, cross-matching will be carried out against all other images held in AusRegistrations. If any two photos appear to be the same an automatic alert is raised and if necessary authorities are alerted after investigation by AusRegistrations.

Security of Records

Theft of an individual’s electronic registrations would require the perpetrator to take over all the individual’s relationships and alert all parties to the relationship change. For example if a person managed to access another individual’s registrations, control would then require changing the photo-image and all associated relationships. If a photo-image is changed, each person or organisation with whom a relationship has been established would be asked to verify that the change is still the same person.

Moreover, each time a verified relationship is changed the individual who “owns” the relationship is alerted and the thief would have to not only change the information but intercept the alert to the individual concerned.

When a person dies, a relationship is established with the Death Certificate Registry at which time it becomes impossible to further change the various relationships or act on those relationships.

Retention and destruction

Individuals can decide at anytime that they wish do “de-register” a relationship. Deregistering means that the organisation is notified that the relationship has ended. The fact that a relationship existed will remain in the system permanently and will be available to both the organisation and the person but it cannot be used for identification or any other purposes and is only available to the person or the organisation.

4.5 Openness

www.AusRegistrations.com.au contains a comprehensive privacy statement and “Frequently Asked Questions” ensuring all users have 24 hour a day, 7 day per week access to our privacy policies.

4.6 Access and Correction

Individual’s can access, edit or inactivate their AusRegistration information at any time by simply logging in to www.AusRegistrations.com.au. However before any changes are made the individual must sign that the change is valid.

Via AusRegistrations users may also access the data provided to, and stored with, their registered relationships. In many instances their verified electronic identity enables greater access to electronic records with these organisations. The individual may then request changes to that data providing any legal or commercial verification requirements are met.

If information is marked as verified and is to be changed then permission must be obtained from the individual for the change to occur. Thus an organisation cannot change information about a person without the person being notified and asked to sign the change.

4.7 Unique Identifiers

Users identify themselves to AusRegistrations by the use of a self-created PIN. This number is not disclosed to any other individual or agency. No common identifier is used across an individual’s registered relationships.

There is no concept of a unique identifier, as the identifier is the individual themselves. They are asked at all times when they are needed to identify themselves. All relationships have an identifier but each one is unique to the organisation and not to the individual.

4.8 Anonymity

AusRegistrations does require an individual to register with an identifying name, address and email address. Given that AusRegistrations provides access to an individual’s register of electronic relationships, it is impractical to offer complete anonymity.

However, it does facilitate anonymity in electronic dealings with organisations that do not have any legal requirement for formal identification. Individuals can choose to only provide say some characteristic such as their verified age if that is all that is required.

4.9 Transborder Data Flows

AusRegistrations can only be used to provide information to organisations in foreign countries if:

a. the organisation has a registered relationship with the individual and

b. the individual chooses to provide this information.

Any data transfer can only occur at the instigation of the individual.

4.10 Sensitive Information

AusRegistrations collects no sensitive information about any individuals or organisations.

[1] Office of the Privacy Commissioner, 2006

[2] For more information see Section 4.2, Data Matching

Water Trading and the Murray Darling …

Water Trading and the Murray Darling Basin

Water Allocations in the Murray Darling have two components. There is a maximum component and there is a yearly allocation. Each year the amount of water that can be taken from the river by Allocation holders is determined by the state of water storages and the long term estimates of water inflows. The actual allocation for each Allocation holder is less than the maximum permitted. These Allocation rights can be traded in some parts of the country and they have a particular value.

The new Commonwealth plan envisages a two prong approach to the problem of over allocation of water. The first prong is to reduce the total maximum component by buying out some of the existing water allocations.

The second prong is to work with farmers to reduce wastage of water. Here funds will be given to improve pipes, fix leaky drainage, presumably install drips instead of flooding and other ways of making better use of water. In effect this increases the supply of usable water. The Commonwealth will fund these savings and will get half the savings while the farmer will get the other half to use for other purposes.

Both these approaches are unlikely to be the most efficient use of the funds.

  1. Funds given to farmers to buy water allocations will not be used to create “new” water through investing in water technologies because the money will get a better return elsewhere.
  2. Allocation holders will try for as much grant money as possible to be spent on their property because that is their best strategy. They will not seek the best return on the money because their best return is to get as much money as possible allocated to their land as there is no incentive to use the money on other properties or on multi property savings.

The underlying problem with the system is that the price of “new” water is a lot less than the price of “old” water.

There is another approach which is likely to give a better return in terms of water saved and may allow the price of “old” water to rise to be closer to “new” water.

Let water allocations become tradeable throughout the whole country with the proviso that the money obtained from the sale of water allocations has to be spent on ways to increase the supply of water. Let us call this money WaterFunds. WaterFunds can be sold but their value is the value to the person who can use them to save water and hence is the value of the “new” water available through using WaterFunds.

Governments are heavily involved in the system because they must control and set the total allocations available in any one year, they must police the use of water, and they must determine how many Water Allocations they will purchase for environmental flows.

This approach requires agreements by the states on defining current Water Allocations and agreeing to WaterFunds being able to cross state boundaries. Agreements need to be reached on Ground Water Allocations and methods of policing Ground Water and on farm use of water. Each year the total water allocations available has to be set by governments. Governments are also required to police the expenditure of WaterFunds on appropriate projects. (The specification and definition of appropriate projects are required no matter what system is used).

WaterFunds are tradeable and the value of WaterFunds will be less than the value of New Water obtained through the use of WaterFunds. The price of all water will tend to rise towards the cost of providing “new” water. Increased revenue from the sale of water can be used to fund the governance of water and any excess can be put into WaterFunds for the creation of “new” water or for the purchase of Water Allocations to be used for environmental flows.

The value of Water Allocations becomes the value of WaterFunds. As the value of “old” water increases it will encourage Allocation holders to sell their Water Allocations.

The approach will encourage the efficient use of WaterFunds because people who hold them will look for the best return no matter where the project exists. The approach will get a return on all funds spent by the government and may gradually bring the cost of all water to the cost of “new” water. Unspent WaterFunds will not attract interest and so there will be an incentive to spend the money.

The most efficient use of WaterFunds is to allow them to be used in any catchment and with as few restrictions as possible – as long as the money is spent on creating New Water. This means that Water Allocations will tend to be sold from water catchments where there is a lower return on funds. Water Funds will tend to be spent in catchments where there is a higher return on funds. An irrigator with a water inefficient distribution system will be able to fund a more efficient system by selling some of their Water Allocation to a city catchment.

The effect of the system will be to make the price of Water Allocations approach the value of water in the catchment with the highest cost water and will encourage the more efficient use of water in catchments where Water costs are low and will increase the supply in Water Catchments where the cost of water is high.

Where WaterFunds are spent can be controlled through the approval of projects. Thus a State might decide that WaterFunds obtained from selling allocations must be spent in the same state. States could also decide they would not allow WaterFunds to come from the sale of Water Allocations in other states although this is most unlikely.

The likely outcome of the scheme is that City Water will fund environmental flows in marginal water catchment areas.

The system can be corrupted if Water Allocations are created arbitrarily but this can be controlled through the limiting the sale of WaterFunds derived from inappropriate Water Allocations.

The system can be corrupted through the approval of inappropriate Water projects. That is, the money is spent not on Water Projects but on projects that do not increase the supply of water. This can be policed by requiring that income derived from the project comes from the sale of “new water” or for projects with multiple income sources the amount of WaterFunds that used is proportional to the income derived from “new water”.