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on data retention, meaning all Australians will be subjected to mass surveillance until this appalling legislation is repealed.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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The Pirate Party wishes to draw attention to the TPP ministerial meeting to occur tomorrow, 25 October 2014, and continues to reiterate the demand that the draconian text be made public.

Tomorrow, 25 October 2014, Sydney will host a meeting of trade ministers from countries currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The aim of the meeting is to conclude the “basic elements of the agreement before the end of the year,” despite the last four years of negotiations being fraught with fundamental disagreements. Of enormous public concern is the lack of transparency surrounding what is intended to be a comprehensive agreement: at this point in time, no drafts have been officially made available for public comment or consideration.

“Recent leaks[1] show the negotiators have learned nothing from the public outcry over previous leaks. The negotiators are pushing ahead with paradigm-shifting intellectual property provisions in the interests of entrenched American corporations, going above the sovereign parliaments of their own nations. Once the document is signed, it is very unlikely to be changed, and very likely to be waved through Parliament with limited oversight. This is legislation through the backdoor; corporate capture of democracy,” commented Brendan Molloy, Pirate Party President.

“It is beyond time that the text was made public. We have seen the content of it through leaks, and what we have seen would have a significantly negative impact on everything from freedom of expression, access to knowledge and access to medicine[2], all in the interests of American corporations. This agreement is not in the national interest.”

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The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended that Parliament pass the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014, despite acknowledging the inadequate amount of time given for public consultation[1]. The Committee recommended a number of amendments that primarily concern improving oversight of the additional powers being granted to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but also clarifying certain terms and reducing the allowable period for detention without notification and delayed notification search warrants. However, no substantial amendments have been recommended.

Pirate Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “Increased oversight will cushion the impact of these reforms, but not in any significant way. We’re still going to see people being detained for up to two hours without notification of family members or other persons. We’re still going to have search warrants where the occupier of the premises won’t be informed that their premises have been searched for up to 12 months afterwards. We’re still going to have people visiting certain areas declared guilty until proven innocent. And we’re still going to see the thresholds for law enforcement and intelligence agency action reduced.

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The Pirate Party today made a brief submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s Inquiry into the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014. The Pirate Party criticised the length of the Bill and its explanatory memorandum, as well as the short timeframe afforded for public comment[1].

Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, author of the Pirate Party’s submission, commented: “Combined, the Foreign Fighters Bill and its explanatory memorandum are more than 350 pages long. For something as simple as preventing the handful of Australians allegedly heading overseas to fight and train with terrorist organisations from leaving or returning, these amendments are extremely broad. This Bill covers not just migration and passport restrictions, but also extends the powers of ASIO operatives and reduces judicial oversight. It even amends social security legislation. Our submission protested the enormity of the Bill and the nine days provided for the public to make submissions.

“Railroading such broad legislation through Parliament and token public consultation is fundamentally undemocratic. We are losing rights and freedoms before we realise what’s going on.”

This is the second of three waves of expected national security reforms and the process of presenting an enormous bill with minimal time for public consultation has been repeated. It is anticipated that the Government will soon present legislation that will introduce a data retention regime.

[1] http://pirateparty.org.au/media/submissions/PPAU_2014_PJCIS_Foreign_Fighters_Bill.pdf

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[1].

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.

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