The Pirate Party is critical of the Attorney-General’s Department’s recently released Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper[1], citing a number of concerns relating to the approach of the paper, its timing and the apparent influence of industry lobbyists.

Pirate Party President-elect, Brendan Molloy, commented: “The Discussion Paper makes a number of misleading assumptions and unsubstantiated claims, while failing to adequately address issues of affordability and accessibility. Instead of addressing the reality that Australians are paying more money for less content than other countries, the Discussion Paper is biased towards turning Internet service providers into ‘Internet police’ and censorship in the form of website blocking, neither of which have proven effective overseas.

“The Government has taken up the cause of the copyright industry lobbyists at an alarming speed. This issue was not on the Government’s agenda prior to the election, and it is only since February that the Attorney-General has given a clear indication of the Government’s direction on this issue. The Government wants Australian Internet service providers to police Australian citizens. Recent studies have shown this will be ineffective[2][3], and increased costs will be passed on to Australians consumers.

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The results of Pirate Party Australia’s July 2014 National Congress are in!

The Pirate Party held its National Congress in Brisbane on July 19–20 for the purposes of amending the Party Constitution, amending and adopting policies and deciding leadership positions, and as an opportunity for members of the Party to socialise in person. The results of the now-concluded week-long voting period can be announced. The Party had a turnout of approximately 25% from a pool of 1100 participants.

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Below is an open letter sent today to the Secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) requesting an extension of time to submit on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014. The Attorney-General has proposed the new legislation based on earlier recommendations of the PJCIS which were made in 2013. It is an extensive bill, as the letter explains, and deviates from the 2012 recommendations significantly in some places. The Pirate Party has requested a two week extension for all submissions given the enormity of both the bill and its explanatory memorandum. The outcome of this request will be published here once an answer is received.

UPDATE: An extension has been granted to all persons and organisations intending to make a submission. The new date is 6 August 2014 (shorter than the two week extension requested) according to a media release issued on 29 July 2014 by the Committee.

Dear Secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security,

Pirate Party Australia believes in considered, deliberative and consultative policy development. Our internal procedures are perfectly in line with these ideals, and our policy development is open to all members, and even interested outsiders. Our policies, as they are developed, are open for discussion typically for months before they are considered to be enacted.

It is with this in mind that we are disheartened by the extreme swiftness with which some very serious legislation that potentially affects all Australians is being rushed through the review process.

The time given to respond to the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014 is insufficient given the serious and substantial nature of the proposed amendments. It was referred to the Committee on 16 July 2014, with a deadline of 1 August 2014 for submissions on a bill that is 124 pages in length accompanied by an explanatory memorandum of 167 pages.

Although based on prior recommendations the Committee made in its 2013 Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation, the bill exceeds those recommendations significantly in places. More time is necessary to sufficiently analyse and put forward a measured and reasonable position on these matters.

For example, in a densely worded change to section 18(2) of the Australian Security Intelligence Act 1979, there is a small amendment that could result in far-reaching implications for how far political communication would be restricted.

Without adequate time to analyse all the elements of this extremely long and dense documentation, and to formulate coherent feedback, the process of consultation that is being undertaken would be ineffective, and would result in the process being seen to be a mockery.

We request that, at the very least, a further fourteen (14) days are granted to all persons and organisations who intend to submit to this committee. To not allow this would be an affront to democracy.


Regards,

Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer
Deputy Secretary
Pirate Party Australia

The Pirate Party renews its calls for the Government to abandon the pursuit of mandatory data retention following comments from the Attorney-General that data retention is under “active consideration”[1]. The Attorney-General also stated that data retention is “the way western nations are going.”

Pirate Party President Simon Frew commented: “What the Attorney-General has essentially said here is that everyone else is doing it, therefore Australia should too. This is abysmal reasoning in light of the thorough criticism provided by the Court of Justice of the European Union earlier this year, in a judgment that overturned the EU’s Data Retention Directive. The Court overturned the Directive precisely because it violated fundamental rights. That was not an invitation for law makers to find a different way of implementing a similar regime. The failure of the Data Retention Directive should serve to deter governments from implementing mandatory data retention: that level of indiscriminate intrusion into people’s privacy is unacceptable.

“The Attorney-General has also stated that privacy intrusions for the purposes of law enforcement should not be disproportionate[2]. We put it to the Attorney-General that data retention is disproportionate. How on earth could it be considered proportionate to store all information about who is contacting who, when they are speaking, for how long, and where they are? A society under constant surveillance is not an appropriate goal.

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The Pirate Party remains highly critical of the Federal Government’s approach to asylum seekers, following the news that an interim injunction has been granted by the High Court to prevent the Government handing 153 asylum seekers over to Sri Lanka. This news comes just days after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed 41 asylum seekers had been handed over to Sri Lanka in a separate incident. This latter group is now facing charges in Sri Lanka[1].

Pirate Party Deputy Secretary, Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, commented: “The Government’s approach towards asylum seekers is dominated by the mantra ‘stop the boats’ and demonstrates little regard for human rights, international law or even human life. The primary goal is not encouraging asylum seekers to go through official channels: it appears to be making these people someone else’s problem. The secrecy around the operations and justifications on national security grounds are absurd. At the moment it seems that the strategy is being made up as they go along.

“By rigorously pursuing its obsession with stopping the boats, the Abbott Government has dehumanised the issue. These vessels have people in them, and putting those people at risk of criminal charges or worse is unacceptable. Although the approach towards asylum seekers has become increasingly harsh since the Rudd Government, people are still trying to seek asylum in Australia. Punishing asylum seekers is not good policy.

“Turning boats back, handing them over to foreign authorities and holding asylum seekers in substandard conditions shows that the approach has not been seriously thought out. We should be spending our resources on ensuring they have adequate means of seeking asylum, no diverting those resources into preventing people from seeking asylum in Australia. We need a regional strategy to improve asylum seeker processing and refugee resettlement, and to encourage our neighbours to meet minimum standards of care and human rights protection. The Government’s silence on matters relating to asylum seekers is highly disturbing.”

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-07/high-court-injunction-halts-handover-of-asylum-seekers/5579726