A recent leak of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) draft intellectual property chapter shows that negotiators remain divided over key issues[1]. The leak reveals that in May 2014 there was limited agreement on the intellectual property provisions, despite the negotiations being ongoing since at least 2008. The TPP is notorious for the secrecy of its negotiations and the exclusion of the public despite it being widely known that some corporate lobbyists have had access to draft texts and a strong hand in influencing negotiating positions.

Of concern are draft provisions that would substantially increase the cost of medical treatment, both domestically and in other participating countries, which demonstrates the strong lobbyist influence on the negotiations. Other provisions may expand Internet service provider surveillance of subscribers, expand what can be patented, and seriously undermine competition by strengthening monopoly rights.

“It is time for the game of secrecy to end. The negotiations seem to be going around in circles and be contrary to the stated positions of the negotiating nations. They fly in the face of expert opinions, and consultations thus far have been little more than shams,” said Brendan Molloy, Pirate Party President.

“Negotiating in this fundamentally undemocratic way will see the involved nations saddled with obligations designed by lobbyists for the benefit of lobbyists, and by the time we find out exactly what those obligations are it’ll already be signed and imposed upon us,” Mr Molloy continued.

Of enormous concern is the removal of an article that would ensure Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement remained fully effective. Article 31 regards compulsory licences of patents to ensure national emergencies in developing countries can be effectively managed. Limiting the effect of Article 31 is likely to have extremely negative effects on managing local and global epidemics[2].

[1] https://www.citizen.org/tpp-ip-wikileaks
[2] http://keionline.org/node/2108

The Pirate Party today made a brief submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s Inquiry into the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014. The Pirate Party criticised the length of the Bill and its explanatory memorandum, as well as the short timeframe afforded for public comment[1].

Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, author of the Pirate Party’s submission, commented: “Combined, the Foreign Fighters Bill and its explanatory memorandum are more than 350 pages long. For something as simple as preventing the handful of Australians allegedly heading overseas to fight and train with terrorist organisations from leaving or returning, these amendments are extremely broad. This Bill covers not just migration and passport restrictions, but also extends the powers of ASIO operatives and reduces judicial oversight. It even amends social security legislation. Our submission protested the enormity of the Bill and the nine days provided for the public to make submissions.

“Railroading such broad legislation through Parliament and token public consultation is fundamentally undemocratic. We are losing rights and freedoms before we realise what’s going on.”

This is the second of three waves of expected national security reforms and the process of presenting an enormous bill with minimal time for public consultation has been repeated. It is anticipated that the Government will soon present legislation that will introduce a data retention regime.

[1] http://pirateparty.org.au/media/submissions/PPAU_2014_PJCIS_Foreign_Fighters_Bill.pdf

In response to the Senate’s passing of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 last Thursday, the Pirate Party has updated its policies to specifically oppose the Bill and support its repeal in the likely case where the lower house also approves it in the coming days[1].

The Bill makes major amendments to the ASIO Act, giving ASIO the ability to access, modify, copy and delete information on computers. ASIO may also be able to apply for a computer access warrant broad enough to cover every device on the Internet at once. Other amendments will introduce tough sentences for journalists and whistleblowers who report or disclose sensitive information, even if it is in the public interest.

The legislation also grants blanket immunity from prosecution for many illegal acts undertaken as necessary under a “special intelligence operation”, effectively granting ASIO unprecedented powers without the necessary checks and balances required by a legitimate liberal democracy.

Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “Labor has farcically waved through some of the most onerous legislation of the last decade with little more than a rubber stamp, as the Liberal Party whips up yet another fear-based storm of ‘national unity’ with insufficient evidential basis. This legislation criminalises journalism and whistleblowing, regardless of the public interest, while effectively granting ASIO agents the power to do anything they please.

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Australians have just suffered an enormous blow to their freedoms with the Senate passing legislation massively expanding ASIO’s surveillance powers and ramping up penalties for journalists and whistleblowers who report on or expose unlawful intelligence gathering operations. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (No 1) gives ASIO the ability to obtain a single warrant that could permit access to any device connected to the Internet, as well as the power to add, remove, modify and copy any data on those devices[1].

The Pirate Party is apalled that the Bill passed the Senate last night. The Bill gives vast new powers to spy agencies, attacks journalism and is a bigger threat to Australian democracy than any terrorist organisation. These are unprecedent surveillance powers, but are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Pirate Party’s Deputy President Simon Frew commented: “Parliament has just created what could be the broadest, most open-ended warrant system ever conceived. Our ‘representatives’ have deliberately avoided defining key terms, such as ‘computer’ and ‘network’, and refused to restrict the number of devices that could be accessed, which leaves us with a warrant that potentially covers the entire Internet. ASIO operatives will be permitted to access third party computers they think might help investigations, and they will be able to modify the contents without the owner’s knowledge. We simply can’t take our privacy for granted anymore.

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The Pirate Party is concerned that Friday’s decision of the Full Federal Court to uphold a patent over the BRCA1 breast cancer gene[1] poses an enormous threat to the treatment of breast cancer and future illnesses. Myriad Genetics’ patent is for the isolated BRCA1 gene, and was upheld on the basis that the isolated gene does not exist in isolated form naturally.

Pirate Party President, Brendan Molloy, commented: “The decision of the Court is disturbing to say the least. This is not an invention or a process — it is naturally occuring genetic material. A private company should not be able to own rights over genetic material found within our bodies.

“This will surely hamper future research into breast cancer, and also other health problems if more patents are granted on isolated genes. This is leaving the door wide open for extortionate licence fees, driving up the costs of further research and treatment.

“Now is the time for legislative intervention to make it clear that patents on isolated genetic material that is removed from its natural state should not be patentable. Monopolies should not be granted where the result of that monopoly is a public health risk.

“Like mathematical formulas, genes should not be patentable. No exceptions.”

The Pirate Party is supportive of any decision to appeal this further to the High Court. The Pirate Party’s patent policy opposes patents on isolated genetic material and proposes extensive patent reform to prevent detrimental effects on public health and innovation[2].

[1] http://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/full/2014/2014fcafc0115
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/wiki/Policies/Patents