Pirate Party Australia congratulates the Greens’ successful motion in the Senate to compel the Government to make the final text of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) public prior to it being signed.
“Having this far-reaching agreement finally made available for public scrutiny will be an enormous win for transparency and democracy in Australia,” commented Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia. “Leaks of draft text from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement indicate substantial implications for intellectual property and investment, but it has so far been impossible to determine the extent of the Agreement and whether or not it will require changes to domestic law.”
The Party remains, however, critical of the contemporary practice of excluding the public from the treaty negotiation process, as has been seen during the negotiations of the TPP, Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement, and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The Department of Foreign Affairs and its counterparts in negotiating countries have actively prevented proper discourse with the public, failed to negotiate transparently, attempted to stifle media scrutiny and provided inadequate public consultation both here and abroad.
In a shocking move, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) raided offices of the law firm of Bernard Collaery, an Australian lawyer acting on behalf of the Government of East Timor. Mr Collaery is in the Hague to put forward a case against the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) for spying on the Timorese Cabinet in relation to negotiations to decide the maritime border between Australia and East Timor in 2004. It is also believed that an unnamed whistleblower was arrested in conjunction with the raids.
Pirate Party Australia condemns the intimidatory tactics employed by ASIO in their bid to shut down an investigation into alleged illegal spying by another Australian intelligence agency.
“The spate of revelations into the abuses of power by various Australian intelligence agencies demonstrates that they are out of control,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “They have shown a reckless disregard for the rule of law and have caused Australia serious damage in our relationships with more than one of our closest neighbours. It is clear that there needs to be a thorough inquiry into all of the Australian intelligence agencies, and strict limitations need to be imposed and enforced.”
It has been reported that ASIO refused to show a detailed warrant due to claims of ‘national security.’
“The phrase ‘national security’ is being used to keep Australians in the dark regarding the plethora of questionable and seemingly illegal activities that are being done by our agencies. The revelations that Australian citizens are being placed under warrantless blanket surveillance has been met by the Government and Opposition with the response of ‘it is long-standing practice for Australian Governments not to comment on intelligence matters.’ This is not good enough.
The contempt that Australian intelligence organisations have for Australian citizens has been exposed, following revelations that the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) boasted in 2008 that it can share “bulk, unselected, un-minimised metadata” with several of its international counterparts. Notes from a meeting at the UK’s GCHQ Headquarters in Cheltenham were leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and show that Australia was keen to share data, regardless of privacy concerns and whether it was intentionally collected. The DSD has since been renamed to the Australian Signals Directorate.
“The threat that indiscriminate collection of metadata poses should never be underestimated,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Metadata amounts to digital footprints, capable of tracking your movements and interactions. It can be used to build comprehensive profiles of personal networks and habits. This sort of surveillance makes every Australian a potential suspect.”
In addition, the parties to the meeting — representatives from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States — discussed how electronic spying has made it possible to collect “medical, legal and religious, or restricted business information, which may be regarded as an intrusion of privacy.” This is in violation of international and common law.
The overnight release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s draft intellectual property chapter has exceeded Pirate Party Australia’s worst fears. While the Party is yet to undertake a thorough analysis of the draft, there are already some provisions that are glaringly ill-considered.
Despite numerous assurances from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the TPP would not require changes to domestic intellectual property legislation, the draft text indicates that substantial legislative changes would be required if the United States and Australia got its way. These changes may include the criminalisation of “significant willful copyright […] infringements that have no direct […] motivation of financial gain.”
“This corporate wishlist masquerading as a trade agreement is bad for access to knowledge, access to medicine, and access to innovation. It re-enforces the worst parts of our intellectual property enforcement regime on a regional level, making the necessary positive reforms for the digital era much more difficult, if not impossible,” said Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia.
“It is absolutely appalling that we are still relying on leaked texts to determine just what we’re getting ourselves into with these trade agreements. Even Parliament is being kept in the dark. It’s time to release the text, and all future texts, so that transparency and oversight can result in texts that help, not hinder, legitimate Australian interests. There is no economic justification for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s intellectual property provisions. DFAT must immediately hold public briefings to explain their now public negotiating positions. It’s time for some accountability.”
The Australian delegation is attributed with the minority in many cases, often siding with the US. The current text would require the accession of all parties to several other intellectual property agreements in order to be a member of this agreement, endangering any future positive reform efforts due to layering of treaties. The US is pushing for pharmaceutical provisions that the Australian delegation is standing against.
The Queensland Parliament recently passed bizarre new security legislation ahead of the 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane. The G20 (Safety and Security) Bill contains a significant number of vague provisions that give an overwhelming amount of power to law enforcement personnel. Included are abilities to forcibly detain, strip search, or even X-ray anyone within declared areas at the discretion of a police officer. Anything ‘capable of disrupting’ the Summit is prohibited in declared areas, as are “chains, cables or anything else capable of securing objects.”
“These measures are disproportionate, poorly defined, and give far too much discretion to law enforcement agents,” said Melanie Thomas, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. “They have the potential to substantially undermine the liberties and dignity of Brisbane residents to an unnecessary extent. For four days in mid-November, people’s lives will be disrupted and many Brisbane residents are likely to be stripped of their rights, liberties, clothes and dignity to accommodate the lockdown.”
Police Minister Jack Dempsey has stated that residents who fail to pass criminal background checks will be prevented from entering restricted zones. Convicted criminals residing within these zones may be temporarily relocated at the taxpayers’ expense. This approach is unnecessarily discriminatory, and, given the restricted zones cover the Brisbane CBD and Southbank, will doubtless affect many residents with criminal records.