After a freedom of information request for documents relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement[1] was deemed to be not in the public interest, Pirate Party Australia turned to crowdfunding to raise the $1,080 processing fee[2]. The Party raised the money within the first hour of launching the campaign, confirming that there is significant public interest surrounding the international agreement.

“This undoubtedly proves that bureaucrats are not acting as custodians of the public interest, are given far too much discretion when it comes to deciding matters, and have an unnecessarily wide range of options available to them to prevent the public accessing important information,” said Brendan Molloy, who lodged the request on behalf of Pirate Party Australia.

The documents, which were requested from IP Australia, reveal little information, with at least half the 2,376 pages being wholly or substantially redacted. Many of the pages are redacted under Section 33 of the Freedom of Information Act which exempts documents that may damage the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth. The section also allows the Government to refuse the release of documents that would divulge information communicated in confidence by a foreign government.

“Section 33 of the Freedom of Information Act is repeatedly used by government departments to withhold information on trade agreement negotiations,” Mr Molloy continued. “It allows near-complete exclusion of the public under the guise of protecting international relations. Australia must be keeping some pretty big secrets from its allies and vice versa. A trade agreement that requires such exclusion is perhaps one we should not be part of.”

“Black marker politics is unacceptable: the default must be transparency, involvement and discussion.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a trade agreement currently being negotiated between Australia and eleven other countries, including the United States. This agreement proposes IP provisions that may be worse than the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which was emphatically rejected by the European Parliament following enormous protests across the European Union. The proposed agreement also includes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions which endanger sovereignty by allowing corporations to sue countries when a law negatively affects their business model.

Pirate Party Australia has previously raised concerns over the secrecy with which these negotiations have been conducted[3]. Given the widespread effects such an agreement would have on the wellbeing of the Australian public and the power of our governing body, it is particularly alarming that these negotiations are being held behind closed doors.

“If the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was indeed negotiated in the best interest of Australians, there wouldn’t have been a need for this secrecy,” Mr Molloy concluded.

The release is available in full from IP Australia’s website: http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/about-us/freedom-of-information/foi-disclosure-log/?doc=178527&view=Detail

Or from Pirate Party Australia at: http://pirateparty.org.au/media/documents/FOI_released_documents_log_548(TPP_IP_Australia).pdf [Note: file size is 60MB]

[1] https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/tpp_and_related_documents_ip_aus
[2] http://www.pozible.com/tppfoi
[3] http://pirateparty.org.au/2013/10/08/controversial-trade-agreement-may-be-finished-by-2014/

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