The Pirate Party renews its calls for greater transparency and participation in treaty negotiation, following the latest leaked draft of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) that shows the agreement is likely to impose anti-privacy and anti-freedom of speech obligations upon Australia[1]. These provisions would benefit large multinational corporations and governments at the cost of the rights of the citizens, and are being negotiated behind closed doors.

“Democracy is under threat, not from terrorism or rising global tensions, but from secretly negotiated treaties like the Trade in Services Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “Provisions too severe to be proposed domestically for fear of being summarily booted from office are being included in treaty negotiations to be swallowed as a bitter pill along with what might otherwise be sensible proposals. TISA is the latest in a long line of secret treaties that have adopted this strategy, and must be opposed as vigorously as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement before it.”

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The Pirate Party is pleased to announce that it has successfully passed a review of its eligibility to remain a registered political party in Australia. A delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) contacted the Pirate Party to confirm that it meets the requirements for eligibility and has been approved for continued registration. This news comes following the AEC’s review of parties without a sitting parliamentarian, which has so far resulted in the deregistration of a number of political parties including the Australian Sex Party, Australian Democrats and the Democratic Labour Party[1].

Pirate Party Secretary Daniel Judge commented: “While we were confident that we would pass the review, this is an enormous relief and ensures that the Pirate Party will contest the next federal election. This is the first time we’ve been reviewed by the AEC since we applied for registration in January 2013, and it appears we passed with flying colours.

“Although meeting the 500 member threshold is not particularly difficult for most parties, ensuring that the details of each of those 500 are up to date and that they are enrolled to vote can be an administrative hurdle. Thankfully we cleared it without trouble, and I’d like to thank all our members who assisted our internal audit by confirming their details.”

The Pirate Party looks forward to continuing the task of broadening its policy platform[2] to address the challenges facing a 21st century Australia, and campaigning against draconian copyright restrictions, the ever-increasing surveillance state, and the destructive anti-science policy directions of the current government. As part of this, the Pirate Party recently released a basic guide for Australians wanting to protect their privacy in response to the mandatory data retention regime recently enacted by the Federal Parliament. This guide is available at https://pirateparty.org.au/dataretention/

[1] http://www.aec.gov.au/Parties_and_Representatives/Party_Registration/Deregistered_parties/index.htm
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/wiki/Platform

Australians should be prepared for threatening letters demanding they “pay up or else” for allegedly downloading movies online, following the Federal Court’s judgment in Dallas Buyers Club LLC v iiNet Ltd. The judgment, handed down this afternoon, means that Australians may soon be the target of “speculative invoicing” — sending letters that threaten legal action unless the alleged downloader pays a settlement figure.

Originally the respondent, iiNet, refused to hand over its customers’ details, believing they would be used as part of speculative invoicing, and its refusal prompted the litigation[1]. Although Justice Perram, in giving the judgment, reportedly stated that the letters will need to be cleared by the Court prior to issue[2], the Pirate Party remains concerned that this sets a dangerous precedent.

Pirate Party Secretary Daniel Judge commented: “This practice has been criticised strongly in the United Kingdom[3], and is predatory to say the least. Like scams, speculative invoicing targets thousands of people and extorts payment from the most vulnerable. In the UK, the accuracy of this approach in targeting people who actually infringed copyright has been criticised. Innocent users have been targeted as a result of the indiscriminate approach[4][5], and even copyright holder representatives have condemned speculative invoicing[6].”

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Today is a dark day for Australians and the Internet as the Labor Party caucus approves data retention[1] and the Coalition prepares to introduce misguided new legislation aimed at combatting online copyright infringement[2]. To encourage Australians to join us in fighting back, the Pirate Party is offering pay-what-you-want memberships with no minimum amount at http://pirateparty.org.au/join

Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “The Government and the Opposition have effectively declared war on the Internet and war on our privacy. The Labor Party has rolled over on data retention, meaning all Australians will be subjected to mass surveillance until this appalling legislation is repealed.

“At the same time, legislation to give copyright holders an easy mechanism to get websites blocked will mean we are subjected to a censorship regime. The Government has opted for a long and pointless game of whack-a-mole — as soon as a site is blocked it will pop up in several new places and copyright infringement will continue.

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In a bid to garner support for data retention legislation, Tony Abbott announced that the scheme is vital in combating child abuse and other crimes. “Metadata and its retention is more important than ever if we are going to be able to track what criminals are doing,” said Mr. Abbott.

“This panicked grab for legitimacy highlights the government’s failure to understand the key flaws in the legislation, despite being made aware of them multiple times[1]. Making false claims that the scheme will greatly benefit the fight against child abuse does a disservice to the young victims of sexual abuse, and Australian society as a whole,” said Fletcher Boyd, Deputy Secretary of the Pirate Party.

The Coalition government has continually ignored calls for more protection in the scheme since right now there are no protections in place for everyday Australians. Forced two year metadata retention with no limits on use will inevitably violate the privacy of countless citizens. While Mr. Abbott claims to be fighting against child abuse, his legislation ignores the fact that the data collected could also be used in a wide variety of other cases. From perpetrating domestic violence to stifling the press, the grave implications of this legislation have been ignored.

On top of this, Mr. Abbott expects Australians to foot the bill for his plan. Telcos have estimated the costs of such a scheme will be upwards of $500m[2], a surveillance tax that will be passed on to consumers. The lack of consideration of data security in the bill will endanger private data even further. The chance of accessing such a large amount of data will be a target on the back of Australian ISPs. When coupled with the massive cost of storage, it’s likely that ISPs will turn to cheaper offshore solutions, leaving Australians further exposed and their data being outsourced to offshore entities.

In Pirate Party Australia’s submission to the data retention inquiry[3], Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer wrote, “Criminals (or potential criminals) have already mitigated any such surveillance through the use of encrypted, proxy and anonymizing services, thereby severely reducing the efficacy of data retention. Some criminals will be caught at the lower end of the scale, but they would have likely been caught anyway. Including everyone with a phone or Internet connection in a database of suspicion does not enhance civil and political relationships and responsibilities.”

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