Australia says cash about to become illegal for purchases over $7,500

One great thing about cash is its anonymity – nobody, including the government, can easily stick their nose in your beeswax when you're using physical banknotes and coins. But anonymity is about to become more scarce in Australia, which is about to make it illegal to purchase anything over $10,000 AU ($7,500 US) with cash.

The Australian government, who announced the new cash ban on Tuesday, says it wants to discourage money laundering and tax evasion by “encouraging the transition to a digital society.” And to enforce the new law, the government will depend on the "Black Economy Standing Taskforce," which will be focusing on Australia's black market tobacco trade.

According to Gizmodo:

As The Guardian points out, one of the biggest targets for the new task force will be the illicit tobacco trade. Australia has the highest tax on cigarettes in the world, with an average pack costing about $40 AU ($30 US). But there’s a huge black market for cigarettes, which comes from both stolen goods and smuggling from outside the country. Taxes aren’t paid on cigarettes until the point of sale, so theft from tobacco warehouses is unusually common in Australia.

But ordinary small business owners aren't happy about the ban.

“It’s going to screw me—95 percent of my business is cash collections,” Paul Thomas, owner of Commander Security Services in Sydney, told News Corp this week. “On a monthly basis, we could process and move up to $4-5 million—either picking up cash, processing and EFT-ing it to customers’ accounts, or recarrying it from customers to their bank branch.”

Today it’s any sum over $10,000 in Australia, but anyone with their eyes open can see where this is going.

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The upside of big tech is Russia vs Telegram, but the downside is Cloudflare vs SESTA

Yesterday, I wrote about the way that tech-sector concentration was making it nearly impossible for Russia to block the encrypted messaging service Telegram: because Telegram can serve its traffic through giant cloud providers like Amazon, Russia can only block Telegram by blocking everyone else who uses Amazon. Read the rest

House-sized rubber duck escapes; is later recaptured

Daphne the Duck escaped during the Cockburn Masters ocean swim competition in Perth. She was only able to make it about 5 miles, where she was discovered a week later hiding near Rottnest Island west of the city. Read the rest

Watch divers harvest hardy "super corals" in hopes of repopulating reefs

Great Barrier Reef Legacy is one of a number of organizations racing to collect and study coral colonies that miraculously survive major bleaching events. The hope is that these "super corals" can help restore reefs decimated by environmental change. Read the rest

World's oldest message in a bottle (probably) discovered

A nearly 132-year-old message-in-a-bottle was found in late January (or was it?).

Here's the story: While walking around Wedge Island in Western Australia, beachcomber Tonya Illman discovered the old bottle in the dunes.

Inside was a tightly-bundled scroll with a piece of twine around it which Tonya and her husband Kym took home to dry out in their oven.

Once the note was dried out enough, they unrolled it and learned the bottle's message, dated June 12, 1886, was in German.

Some people believe the find is part of an elaborate marketing hoax staged by Kym, a known "ambush marketer" in Perth.

Still, according to BBC News, the couple got the note to an expert who confirmed its authenticity:

Dr Ross Anderson, Assistant Curator Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum, confirmed the find was authentic after consulting with colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands.

"Incredibly, an archival search in Germany found Paula's original Meteorological Journal and there was an entry for 12 June 1886 made by the captain, recording a drift bottle having been thrown overboard. The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message," Dr Anderson said.

The handwriting on the journal, and the message in the bottle, also matched, he added.

The bottle was jettisoned in the south-eastern Indian Ocean while the ship was travelling from Cardiff in Wales to Indonesia, and probably washed up on the Australian coast within 12 months, where it was buried under the sand, he wrote in his report.

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I'm coming to the Adelaide Festival this weekend (and then on to Wellington, NZ!)

I'm on the last two cities in my Australia/NZ tour for my novel Walkaway: today, I'm flying to Adelaide for the Adelaide Festival, where I'm appearing in several program items: Breakfast with Papers on Sunday at 8AM; a book signing on Monday at 10AM in Dymocks at Rundle Mall; "Dust Devils," a panel followed by a signing on Monday at 5PM on the West Stage at Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden; and "Craphound," a panel/signing on Tuesday at 5PM on the East Stage at Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden. Read the rest

Hey, Melbourne! I'm coming to see you this week (Sydney, Adelaide and Wellington: you're next!)

I'm typing these words from Perth airport, after a wonderful time at the Perth Festival; my Australiasian tour for Walkaway has four more stops to go: tomorrow and Wednesday, I'll be in Melbourne; then it's off to Sydney; the Adelaide Festival; Wellington Writers and Readers Week and Read the rest

Hey, Australia and New Zealand, I'm coming to visit you!

I'm about to embark on a tour of Australia and New Zealand to support my novel Walkaway, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Wellington! I really hope you'll come out and say hello! Read the rest

Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Australian government's worst-ever state-secrets leak: accidentally selling filing cabinets full of classified docs in a surplus store

Australian national broadcaster ABC has gotten hold of a massive trove of state secrets that were inadvertently sold off in a pair of cheap, locked filing cabinets purchased from a Canberra junk-shop that specialises in government surplus furniture. Read the rest

Comic-strip contracts, so no one argues they’re too confusing to be enforceable

University of Western Australia Law professor Camilla Baasch Andersen has helped businesspeople draft legally binding contracts that take the form of simple comic-strips, arguing that their simplicity not only promotes understanding, but also insulates companies from the risk of courts finding their contracts unenforceable because they were too confusing (an Australian court has forced insurers Suncorp and Allianz to refund AUD60m paid for insurance that was of "little or no value," but which Australians purchased thanks to confusing fine-print that made it hard to assess). Read the rest

Star Toys: a line of Star Wars-themed sex toys

Australian bathing-suit-area-gadget vendor Geeky Sex Toys has launched Star Toys, a line of Star Wars themed sex-toys that include a Dark Side Bondage Kit, a Hand Solo fleshlight, the Darth Vibrator, Vibe Trooper and R2V2, a C3PO buttplug, and Light Saber dildos in Blue, Red and Green. (via Mitch Wagner) Read the rest

The Australian health authority believed it had "anonymised" a data-set of patient histories, but academics were easily able to unscramble it

The Australian government's open data initiative is in the laudable business of publishing publicly accessible data about the government's actions and spending, in order to help scholars, businesses and officials understand and improve its processes. Read the rest

After priest/child rape scandal, Australian Archbishop says he'll ask the Pope to allow priests to have sex

As a Royal Commission in Australia wraps up its investigation into decades of rape by priests (especially rape of children), and decades of Church officials obstructing investigation into the rape, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says he'll ask the Pope to change the rules so that celibacy for priests is voluntary, not mandatory. Read the rest

A proposed Australian leaker law will put journalists and whistleblowers in jail for 20 years

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a plan to bring down anti-leaker legislation that provides for 20 year prison sentences for whistelblowers who leak in order to prove government wrongdoing, and for the journalists who publish those leaks. Read the rest

Vegemite ice pops

It's summer in Australia, which means people are thinking of cool treats to enjoy in the heat.

Then, on Tuesday, the folks at Vegemite ruined everything by making ice pops with their thick, dark yeast spread.

After much debate whether it was a joke or not, the Melbourne-based brand tweeted, "We weren't kidding with this one!," and offered up the recipe for the repulsive "Vegemite Icy Poles." Read the rest

Cool sculpture made of repurposed wooden escalator stairs

Sydney's Wynyard Station wooden escalators, built in 1932, have been preserved and repurposed as a sculpture titled Interloop, in the station where they operated for over 80 years. Read the rest

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