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.
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.
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.
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.
The Pirate Party is calling for the Australian Government to take immediate action on the sentencing of Australian journalist Peter Greste in Egypt yesterday. Greste has been sentenced to seven years for “spreading false news and supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood” according to the ABC.
Pirate Party President Simon Frew commented: “The Australian Government has indicated its support for Mr Greste and encouraged the Egyptian President to release him, however it is crucial at this point not to back down. An Australian journalist has been convicted by a foreign court for doing his job, and now is the time to take severe action on the matter.
“The Pirate Party considers it would be appropriate to expel the Egyptian Ambassador and sever diplomatic ties with the country if the verdict remains upheld. Australia must assert its position and send a strong message to Egypt that freedom of the press, no matter how bad the political situation, is vital to democracy.
“We are calling on the Australian Government to immediately take action to secure the release of Peter Greste and his safe return to Australia. The Government has consistently emphasised its support for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Now is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Australia will go to great lengths to ensure these freedoms are protected and those who exercise them will not be punished.
“Both major Parties have a mixed record of defending journalists and freedom of the press. A case in point is the lacklustre defence of Julian Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last two years. Australia needs to consistently defend the rights of journalists doing their jobs regardless of the nature of the reporting. A free press is an important part of a just and democratic society.”
The following is an open letter to Premier Campbell Newman sent by Queensland Coordinator Michael Keating regarding the Queensland State Government’s consideration of banning canvassing at polling booths during elections.
Dear Premier Newman,
It is with concern that I read in the Brisbane Times on the 24th of April that you and your government are considering banning polling booth canvassing at elections. Such recommendations that you are looking at implementing have the potential for causing issues with the natural democratic process in this state.
The proposed change to polling booth canvassing is a potential issue for the free democratic process we enjoy in Australia. As a member of Pirate Party Australia, we gladly support the improvement of conduct during elections – both from politicians and their supporters. However, there are several issues with attempting to restrict or ban canvassing at polling booths. Chief among them is that it will take away the opportunity for people of all political backgrounds to be able to provide information to voters about their policies, backgrounds and any other relevant information. Restricting this would be restricting the normal democratic process, for what can only be seen as being for your own benefit. This also raises the potential issue of these laws being used to restrict free speech in airing political opinions at times of elections.
Pirate Party Australia is outraged by a Liberal-National Coalition (LNP) plan to ban environmental boycotts. While specifics of the plan are yet to be announced, it appears to be a serious assault on both free speech and the free market.
The freedom to disseminate information regarding the activities of companies for purposes of increasing consumer awareness and to encourage environmentally sound practices through boycotts is vital for those wishing to act beyond the limited environmental controls legislated by Parliament.
“This proposal is a serious assault on the very fabric of democracy,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “The Government can enforce minimum standards, but activist organisations have the right to pressure industries to adopt higher standards. A free society depends on the free exchange of ideas, and this move by the LNP puts serious limitations on that exchange occurring around issues that millions of people may view as important.”
“By limiting the ability of consumers to leverage their collective buying power to encourage ethical business practices, the Government plans to limit consumers’ ability to decide what ethics they expect companies to uphold,” Mr Frew continued. “Such a plan could eventually be extended to ending the labelling of ethical and environmentally friendly products. The free market includes the right to spend money according to your values, and the Government appears to be trying to impose their own morality — or amorality — on Australian citizens.”