MELBOURNE — At 6:30 pm today, Pirates of all persuasions will descend upon Federation Square to engage in a swashbuckling pillow fight. Money raised by the event, organised by Pirate Party Australia, will go toward the charity Childhood Cancer Support. The charity’s website can be found here: http://ccs.org.au

“Despite perceptions of parrots, swords and eye-patches, when Pirate Party Australia talks like a pirate it usually means discussing copyright and patent reform, and other policy areas,” said Pirate Party Deputy President Melanie Thomas. “While it’s not always fun and games, we are more than happy to have a bit of fun for a good cause!”

By hosting a pillow fight on Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pirate Party Australia is hoping to draw attention to the need to better enable research opportunities in the field of health and pharmaceuticals. The Party is agitating for reform of patent laws to assist medical research across a range of illnesses, including cancer, and enabling cheaper access to medication and treatment. It is an unfortunate effect of drug patents that they shut down free market competition which might otherwise drive improved manufacturing and delivery techniques.

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Pirate Party Australia is outraged that a legal challenge to the BRCA1 gene patent has failed[1][2].

“This ruling is a slap in the face for all of those who will suffer or know somebody who will suffer from breast cancer within their lifetime. It is utterly disgraceful that we live in a nation where private companies can own the genetic material within our bodies,” said Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia.

More than two years ago, Pirate Party Australia issued a statement welcoming the legal challenge[3], with the hope that the case would be a catalyst for laws to expressly forbid patents on genetic materials.

By permitting a patent on BRCA1, discoveries are now effectively given the same protections as inventions. The effect this will have on adequately treating cancer sufferers is abysmal, and also opens the door for hampering future research as private companies secure patents and charge extortionate license fees.

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Stakeholders at a briefing held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) last Friday were told that the upcoming regional agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), would contain some intellectual property provisions similar to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

ACTA was rejected by the European Union earlier this year, and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) has recommended against ratification until stringent criteria are met, including a cost-benefit analysis. Pirate Party Australia made multiple submissions to JSCOT regarding ACTA[1][2].

The TPP will contain an intellectual property chapter cobbled together from various other free trade agreements and treaties, including the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), representatives of DFAT indicated when questioned. This is in direct contradiction to a 2010 recommendation by the Productivity Commission to seek to exclude intellectual property provisions from future bilateral and regional trade agreements (BRTAs), after AUSFTA introduced a net loss to the Australian economy[3].

“It is of great concern that we may see the reintroduction of ACTA-like provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which has been resoundly binned as a poorly formed agreement, starting with the EU rejecting it and continuing with JSCOT’s scathing review,” said Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia.

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Pirate Party Australia is disappointed that Canada and Mexico will formally join negotiations for the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) this week.

The Pirate Party has been very critical of the Agreement, particularly as there has been minimal engagement with the public – both in Australia and in the other negotiating nations – and only two draft chapters have been leaked.

“From these leaks, it is evident that at least some TPP negotiators are pushing for provisions that go beyond the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that was rejected by the European Union earlier this year, and which is yet to be ratified in Australia,” said David W. Campbell, President of Pirate Party Australia. “While the Pirate Party movement internationally has been one of the key opponents to ACTA due to its overreaching copyright and patent enforcement provisions, what is worrying about the TPP is that it is being conducted in near absolute secrecy making it difficult for concerned groups to offer criticism. When drafting international agreements, the citizens of those nations involved have a right to consultation, which must include access to draft texts.”

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