Pirate Party Australia has stated that ‘metadata’ is the most dangerous form of data[1], but apart from Senator Scott Ludlam, no one else got the message. Representatives from the Attorney-General’s Department and other government agencies have continued drawing misleading distinctions between ‘metadata’ or ‘telecommunications data’ and ‘content data’ at public hearings on telecommunications legislation, though Senator Ludlam has been quick to call them out on this[2].

Pirate Party Australia’s President Simon Frew commented: “Drawing a divide between ‘telecommunications data’ and ‘content data’ is an attempt to make us think that telecommunications data is only the information that gets collected for billing. This is absolutely false. The debate needs to go beyond this artificial distinction. It needs to be reframed around the reality that although content data reveals what you said, telecommunications data can reveal who you talk to, who your friends are, who their friends are, which establishments you frequent, and even the times you are asleep.”

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In an enormous victory for privacy, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the EU’s Data Retention Directive is invalid. Under Directive 2006/24/EC, member states of the European Union were required to store telecommunications data for at least six months, and for as long as 24 months. The press release announcing the judgment states that “the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.”[1]

Pirate Party Australia cautioned against introducing data retention into Australia in its submission to the comprehensive revision of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 in February[2]. Earlier, in 2012, the Attorney-General’s Department proposed the introduction of a six-month data retention regime among other reforms to national security legislation[3]. The Pirate Party believes that the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union validates its opposition to data retention.

“We have raised every concern regarding data retention that the Court of Justice of the European Union has in this judgment,” said Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, Deputy Secretary of Pirate Party Australia and co-author of the Pirate Party’s submission. “This ruling is a comprehensive criticism of data retention, and a validation of our long-held position. The Court has recognised that telecommunications data poses an enormous threat to privacy if retained. Telecommunications data reveals who you spoke to, when you spoke to them, and where you were. It is a means of tracking the entire population.”

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Pirate Party Australia condemns comments made by Tanya Plibersek, Labor’s Shadow Foreign Minister, who on Sunday “gave a strong signal she was comfortable with telecommunications companies collecting and storing intercepted data for longer periods in order to assist intelligence agencies in their domestic anti-terror investigations”[1]. Ms Plibersek restated the artificial distinction between “data” and “metadata,” likening the former to the contents of a letter and the latter to the envelope. Pirate Party Australia is critical of this analogy, and does not accept or condone the mandatory retention or use of metadata, on the grounds that it is a gross invasion of privacy.

“The idea that metadata is equivalent to reading the address on an envelope is misleading. A lot of information about us can be gathered by looking at what websites we visit, searches we make, and who we communicate with. Complex webs of relationships, interests, daily routines, and political and religious affiliations can be built solely using metadata,” said Fletcher Boyd, Pirate Party candidate for the Western Australian Senate Election this coming Saturday. “It can be far more valuable than the content itself, and this makes it ultimately more dangerous.”

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Pirate Party Australia welcomes the upsurge of interest in renewable energy and climate change that the Western Australian Senate Election campaign has generated. An overwhelming 97 percent of climate scientists now believe human activity is causing global warming, and the cost of the failure to act is growing[1]. This is a call to action for all parties and candidates who support science and evidence-based policy making.

Pirate Party Australia endorses a rapid and large investment in renewable energy sources beyond that which is currently proposed[2]. In the absence of such an investment, Pirate Party Australia will firmly defend existing climate change mechanisms including the Renewable Energy Target, the Carbon Tax/ETS, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Pirate Party candidates will oppose any attempt to undermine or remove any of these instruments.

“Pirate Party candidates stand on the side of science,” said Fletcher Boyd, lead candidate for the Senate in WA. “No Pirate Party candidate will give ground to anti-science and demagoguery.”

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Pirate Party Australia opposes the imminent abolition of the National Security Legislation Monitor (NSLM).

The NSLM conducts the crucial and ongoing task of reviewing “the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation”[1]. It provides independent recommendations on protecting individual rights and ensuring safeguards are effective.

The abolition of the NSLM is being conducted under the cover of the Coalition Government’s “Repeal Day,” which is purportedly intended to remove obsolete and unnecessary regulations[2]. The NSLM is targeted on the grounds that its mission is “complete,” despite its recommendations having so far been ignored.

“It typifies the bipartisan nature of the security state that one party would seek to abolish oversight on the grounds that another party ignored it,” said Fletcher Boyd, lead candidate for the Senate in WA. “The removal of external oversight further unbalances our overbearing security legislation and makes it even more urgent that political oversight exists to fill the void.

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