Platform

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Official Party Document
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Declaration of platform and principles

Pirate Party Australia is founded on the basic tenets of:

  • Freedom of culture and speech,
  • The inalienable right to liberty and privacy,
  • The protection of the freedoms provided by the evolving global information society,
  • The transparency of institutions, and
  • The restoration of the freedoms and balance lost through the encroachment of harmful and overbearing intellectual monopolies.

As part of an international movement, we seek not only to change national laws, but to reform perceptions and effect worldwide change. We seek this democratically, through parliamentary elections and lobbying of government.

Civil liberties

Civil liberties are essential to all of us, being a balance to the power of the state, a source of freedom and progress, and the core of civil society. History records a long fight for liberty, with even basic rights such as freedom from slavery, freedom of speech and freedom from torture won with great difficulty and frequent reverses. The digital age has provided stunning progress in this age-old struggle: many hierarchies including old-style media and government centralism have been recast or overthrown, creating space for citizen engagement and new voices.

As individuals have become more empowered, co-operation and trust between citizens and the state has become increasingly important. Trust and co-operation between citizens and the state ultimately underpin our collective security. Laws which nullify civil liberties in the name of security are counter-productive because they undermine this trust. The historical truism that security is not won through the sacrifice of liberties has never been more true than in the digital age.

Freedom of speech and related rights

Freedom of speech is not only a key civil liberty in itself, but a safeguard for other liberties. It protects not just the right to speak out, but also the right to hear and be exposed to ideas. Racism and other offensive ideas have generally lost power most swiftly in the freest societies, where they have been most effectively refuted. However, refutation can happen only when offensive ideas are permitted expression. Restrictions on speech undermine this process and rob the public of its collective capacity to judge parties and persons on the basis of full and free information.

While laws which criminalise “offensive” or “insulting” speech[1][2] may be well-intentioned, mechanisms such as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act impose dangerous subjectivity into our legal system. The perpetual risk in criminalising offensiveness is that almost any form of difference or disagreement can be viewed as offensive to someone, and nations such as the UK and Canada have experienced significant abuse of such laws.[3][4][5][6] Even where protections technically exist, the mere threat of legal sanction may be sufficient to chill dialogue and speech, and recent events demonstrate that restrictions on one type of speech spread all too easily to include wider categories.[7]

Recent censorship bills also threaten to infringe free expression. The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 bans "praise" for terrorist acts (which are defined vaguely and broadly),[8] while the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999/2001 imposes arbitrary restrictions on viewing of a range of otherwise legal consensual activities.[9][10] We support a classification system which facilitates choice by providing information, but reject any creep into broader censorship under which citizens have such choices made on their behalf.

Freedom of speech underpins other freedoms including freedom of thought, conscience and assembly. It is past time that laws seeking to restrict these fundamentals were subject to proper consultation and debate, measurement of costs and benefits, and meaningful attempts to ascertain the likelihood of purported security threats. Fundamental principles warrant evidence-based policy.

Justice

The legal system should err on the side of civil rights and free speech. Journalist shield laws are a key in this regard: press freedom cannot exist without the right to protect sources, and the absence of protection can result in concealment of information essential to the public interest. Although nominal shield laws exist, journalists continue to face prosecution from powerful individuals for nothing more than protecting confidentiality.[11][12] To curb this, the right to protect a source needs to be strengthened by including a right for journalists to protect the content of information passed on in addition to the identity of the source. The power of inquiries to publicly expose sources must also be curbed, since such compulsion threatens the very forms of journalistic investigation which have so often been essential to inquiries launching in the first place.

Balance and equality within the legal system can be improved by unwinding recent laws aimed at loosening thresholds for detention, search and seizure, and restoring proper judicial oversight.[13] Finally, we believe the system should embody the principle of one law for all, applied to all persons equally. The Pirate Party does not support parallel legal systems and other forms of law which impose differential standards.

Privacy

Privacy is an essential underpinning of human dignity and free expression. It encompasses not just physical privacy, but the freedom to control your cultural presence, and manage the information and identity that surrounds you. A trusting and free democratic society cannot function without the protection of a person's private life and sphere. Surreptitious and intrusive surveillance is toxic to trust, social harmony and the integrity of the state.

The Pirate Party will always support privacy and oppose attempts to nullify it. We want a higher threshold of privacy to be codified across the totality of laws in Australia. This can be done both by introducing tougher legislative requirements for organisations retaining data, and improving options available to individuals seeking to protect their personal privacy.

In addition to supporting further protections of human dignity through the curtailing of state-sponsored surveillance, Pirate Party Australia recognises that the pervasiveness and continual expansion of private and public recording equipment pose serious implications for privacy. Free expression will be significantly curtailed if all aspects of people's lives are subject to orchestrated or ad hoc surveillance. As such, we support the enactment of a statutory tort that covers both intrusions into seclusion as well as misuse of private information.

Dignity and freedom from pain

No liberty is more fundamental than the right to live free of pain and physical torment. We support the right of adults of sound mind, facing terminal illness, and with appropriate safeguards, to end their lives with dignity and peace if they so choose. Contrary to frequent claims, support for voluntary euthanasia is not a statement of any kind on the value of life. It encompasses no more than respect for the right of persons to decide on such weighty questions for themselves, in the context of their own private circumstances. We believe politicians should represent the views of citizens, not use political office to impose religious views into the private sphere. Bans on voluntary euthanasia create a painful legacy of unmanageable suffering, lost dignity, and the sacrifice of free choice.

Digital liberties

The grassroots nature of the Internet is causing considerable disruption to traditional power structures.[14][15][16][17] Unsurprisingly, this is leading to push-back: corporate and government entities have been trying for years to increase control over the Internet through a range of measures including censorship, reduction of access, treaties to reduce the rights of Internet users, and ever-broader surveillance and monitoring powers.[18]

Attempts to control the Internet take different forms over time, but all are justified through references to crime and other undesirable activities. They also all share one critical flaw: they are easily evaded by those with technical knowledge. They ultimately reduce the freedoms of the public while doing nothing to curb criminal behaviour. The Pirate Party will always defend the founding principles of the Internet, and resist any and all attempts to control it. A fast and free Internet, open to all, is a safeguard not just for our economy and culture, but for our basic rights.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a fundamental principle behind the development of the Internet. It ensures that the Internet is free and open to all by preventing gatekeepers from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down content based on the source, destination or owner. Net Neutrality guarantees that even the smallest entrepreneurs have the same access standards as established firms.[19] The absence of such a guarantee would represent a perpetual threat to generations of new entrants.

Content providers and ISPs have undermined net neutrality by seeking to differentiate among different forms of information and data flow, and impose priorities. Abandoning Net Neutrality and subjecting Internet traffic to a commercial veto will hurt competition and innovation, and allow service providers to preference or block protocols and force consumers to use less desirable options.

Free, open and non-discriminatory access to the Internet is essential for our democracy and for our economic well-being and the Pirate Party will seek the adoption of clear net neutrality principles to protect the Internet from the introduction of any discriminatory practices.

Data retention

Surveillance of the public is expanding constantly, and has reached a point which threatens essential trust between the state and the citizen.[20][21]

Plans have been tabled to expand surveillance further which would force ISPs to retain telephone and Internet data for 2 years, and force people to reveal their passwords on demand. This is a gross invasion of privacy and will create a vast database of material. Ultimately this database could become accessible through many channels not mentioned in the legislation, including subpoenas. The database will pose little threat to criminal activity, since many technical avenues currently exist through which data retention can be avoided.

While data retention is only a proposal at present, recent revelations show that Australians are already subject to an array of secret, warrantless spying on emails, chats, photographs, documents and website addresses.[22][23][24] Such spying poses little threat to terrorists: terrorist forums are not indexed by most search engines and do not inhabit the servers targeted by the PRISM program.[25] However, mass-trawling of personal data poses a significant threat to the liberties of the global public and undermines cooperation and trust between citizens and the state. Unrestricted surveillance of the public combined with total obscurity for the state is untenable. Far more legitimacy, trust, and effectiveness will be earned by applying proper oversight and inbuilt protections for civil liberties, including proper use of warrants

Censorship

Internet censorship proposals create a permanent infrastructure for web blocking, and connect it to a permanently shifting category of banned content. The RC classification has been altered frequently by parliament and has become patchwork and inconsistent.[26] We believe that the government should look to adequately funding law enforcement, removing illegal content and prosecuting those responsible for the manufacture of the material, rather than funding a filter that slows connection speeds, is liable to wrongly block websites and is easily circumvented.

Households may choose censorship programs for their own use, but that is the prerogative of parents: they must be permitted to make decisions for their own families, and the government should trust them to do so responsibly.

New censorship proposals come on top of existing, secret censorship mechanisms. Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act has been used by officials to block access to around 250,000 legitimate websites to date, with no application of oversight and accountability.[27][28][29] We believe the rampant misuse of this provision warrants its removal, with any replacement clause to be subject to proper consultation and higher legislative standards.

Support for fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure projects

The current copper network is not sufficient to meet the requirements of a growing digital society. A fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure project that connects the majority of Australians to a fibre network, where economically feasible, is fundamental to the creation of a vibrant digital society in Australia.

Copyright

Copyright laws are a statutory monopoly artificially applied to information and culture that are traditionally justified as a balance between the rights of content creators and the rights of society. Properly applied, such laws encourage creative output by providing a limited monopoly for artists and writers over the use and distribution of their work. On expiry of copyright (which originally lasted for 28 years) work entered the public domain to be used and built on by others.

The overreach of copyright

In recent times the essential balance underlying copyright law has been lost, and a mechanism intended to serve the interests of the general public is now threatening fundamental rights and cultural growth. Copyright duration has been repeatedly extended, and now persists for 70 years after the death of the original creator. This massive duration is actively harmful for the creative community,[30] because it kills the flow of material to the public domain, denying the opportunity to draw on it. Perpetual copyright benefits only large businesses, and encourages them to reuse old content rather than undertake relatively risky and expensive investments in new material.

Higher duration has been paired up with increasingly draconian enforcement. Enforcement of copyright has encroached into the realm of non-commercial use—a recipe for abuse of the general public. Individuals are now being prevented from listening to public radio,[31][32] or fined millions of dollars for downloading a handful of songs.'[33] Community groups and charities have been threatened with legal action for allowing children to perform Christmas carols,[34] and corporations are preventing access to public footage of historical events.[35][36] The rights of the general public are being trampled in the name of protecting obsolete, rent-seeking business models.[37]

Seeking to defend their behaviour, lobbyists and corporate interests have adopted terms like ‘piracy’ and ‘theft’. However, when normal behaviour such as culture sharing is criminalised, everyone is a pirate. The Pirate Party has adopted the term to draw attention to this fact, and to focus attention on threats to a range of fundamental rights:

  • Privacy has been directly undermined by attempts to force ISPs to monitor private communications in the name of copyright enforcement.
  • Participation in the free market is threatened by copyright bills such as SOPA and PIPA, which would have granted US copyright holders unilateral power to shut down the websites of other businesses anywhere in the world on the basis of an allegation that the site "enabled" copyright infringement.[38]
  • The presumption of innocence is taken away by ‘three strikes’ or ‘graduated response’ laws which allow Internet users to be disconnected by copyright holders upon an allegation and without fair trial or due process.[39][40]
  • Free speech is similarly threatened by compulsory disconnection. The Constitution contains an implied guarantee of freedom of communication in relation to political matters, which the High Court has determined is essential to the proper functioning of Australian democracy. Disconnection interferes with the right to assembly and political communication, and violates the Constitution as well as High Court determinations and international covenants. The Internet is essential for everything from financial affairs to childhood education, and laws enabling disconnection are a frontal assault on free speech and modern life.
  • Consumer rights are being eroded as technology becomes increasingly crippled though measures such as Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM can be a prelude to surreptitious surveillance and unauthorised data collection. It cripples culture and knowledge distribution, and is an electronic equivalent of a barbed wire fence around data consumers rightfully own.
  • Access to our cultural heritage is jeopardised by the (thus far) successful campaign to impose a ‘forever less one day’[41] period of copyright duration. All copyrighted works are, to some extent, based on or inspired by prior work. Modern attempts to combine perpetual duration with the prevention of reuse and remixing threaten the mechanisms of progress and impose restrictions that creators have never faced before. They amount to a strangling of the creative process.

Reforming copyright

Placing copyright law in direct opposition to fundamental rights guarantees failure. File and culture sharing are, predictably, continuing to grow in defiance of all attempts to control it,[42] and recent attempts to impose additional enforcement were crushed by determined opposition in the European parliament and US Congress. People have always shared poetry, music and culture, and modern copyright laws fail because they attempt to criminalise innate human behaviour.

Copyright is changing, and we are seeing a completely new and different social understanding of copyright – a generational shift in the way we relate to and participate in culture. It is thus concerning that the Australian government has announced an intention to consider imposing the thoroughly discredited ‘three strikes’ disconnection model on Australian Internet users. Copyright was written to serve the needs of the general public, and this purpose is not accomplished by criminalising an entire generation. Fundamental rights do not need to be “balanced” with copyright enforcement.

A copyright law for our time must combine the balanced approach of the past with recognition of the situation we confront in the present. Normal interactions in the digital sphere should no longer be monitored or threatened. The digital realm offers artists and creators vast new opportunities for exposure, free of old-fashioned limits on distribution, and the overwhelming weight of research shows that file sharing has not reduced revenue to artists.[43][44][45] The law should account for this. Copyright duration should also be contained to around 15 years — which is calculated to be the optimal term to drive maximum creative endeavour.[46] Creative remixing and reuse of existing content must be allowed, as preventing them is equivalent to attacking freedom and progress itself.

Cultural participation

Culture is a pillar of our lives, having evolved with us through thousands of generations, building on what has gone before and connecting people to each other and to our collective history.

However, intellectual property laws have recently imposed a misshapen model of culture, molding it into a hierarchical structure in which grassroots creators are squeezed out and the creations of the past century are placed under perpetual private control.[47] Live music venues and other participatory avenues are becoming increasingly scarce,[48] [49] [50] [51] even as corporate owners of music are forbidding remixing and other essential aspects of musical creativity and evolution.[52] And while digital avenues provide substantial new ways to experience culture, traditional cultural hubs are likely to need greater support to fully harness their potential.

Part of the cultural challenge is addressed through reform of intellectual property laws (see copyright policy). However, such reforms should be supplemented with active efforts to help artists and promote grassroots cultural models which better reflect both our own creative nature and the increasingly participatory nature of the digital age. Successful cultural policies should emphasize grassroots participation and access, not hierarchical structures and artificial scarcity.

Patents

Thoughts and ideas cannot be “owned” as natural property. Patent laws do, however, grant a temporary monopoly over an expression of an idea. This trades a reduction in free access for a greater incentive to disclose and develop ideas.

However, as the information age has reshaped society, patents have become increasingly anachronistic and inadequate in fulfilling their intended purpose. The original twenty-year patent duration was codified at a time when ideas and products took years to spread.[53] It is out of step in a world where products can be developed and marketed to millions of people in a space of weeks, and most credible research now favours a significantly shorter term.[54] The disconnect between patent laws and modern life is worsened by rampant abuse of the patent system. Hoarders and patent trolls are using patents to force creators and inventors to pay additional costs or face litigation – a use that undermines the creation process patents were meant to protect.

Modernising the patent system

Monopolies on ideas are not natural – they are created by the state. While interventions in the free market are sometimes necessary, it is important that they serve the public interest, and reflect the best research. A reduction in patent duration is now clearly overdue, and this should be paired up with explicit protection for public research. Since patents were introduced on the basis of enabling products to be developed, we believe that legal defence of any patent should require the litigant to prove they are using it. Patent law should also permit independent development of the same invention.

Taken together, these measures will curb the incentive to register trivial and defensive patents. This should reduce the quantity of patents, and improve the quality.

Software patents

Patents on programs must reflect the uniquely dynamic nature of the software industry, and durations should be shorter than those applying to other patent types. Functional claiming (which patents the end result of software) should be abolished, as it removes the capacity for the free market to create newer and better approaches.[55][56][57][58] A larger fee should also apply for software patents to fund additional scrutiny and a raising of the threshold for obviousness and prior art.

Genes and organisms

“Products of nature” are explicitly not patentable under first principles of patent law. However, patents on human genes have been granted on the basis that extraction of material from its natural environment is akin to having invented it.[59][60]This is an absurd legal artifice that, if applied in other fields, would lead to patents on coal, cotton, and wood.

The granting of monopolies over human genes is a particularly destructive form of corporate welfare because it allows private interests to lock away fundamental information about our bodies. Essential research is being hindered by the obligation to negotiate among dozens of gene patent holders, who bear no obligation to contribute to research themselves.[61][62] Gene patent holders are imposing huge costs on sick and dying patients for simple tests and treatments.[63] Curbing these practices requires no more than a return of patent law to first principles, which provide no basis for patents on genes and organisms.

Pharmaceutical patents

Pharmaceutical patents fall into two categories: patents on a process for creating a drug, and patents on a drug itself. Process patents may encourage companies to seek alternative and better ways to produce a desired outcome.[64][65] However, drug patents have the reverse effect, shutting down free market competition which might otherwise drive improved techniques.

Drug patents are typically justified by the assertion that a strong incentive is needed to support the long and complex research and development cycle for drugs. While drug research is important, patents are a flawed method for accomplishing it, for two primary reasons:

  • The price problem: A guarantee of a twenty-year monopoly on a drug removes any necessity to compete on quality or price. Very high prices result, and since a large number of drugs qualify for the pharmaceutical benefit scheme (PBS) the government is ultimately forced to fund the monopolies it has created, to the tune of billions of dollars a year (the cost of patented medicines in the F1 category of the PBS rose by more than a third between 2005–06 and 2009–10).[66] The situation is worse in developing nations where high prices demanded by patent holders deny impoverished people access to lifesaving medicine.[67][68][69]
  • The incentive problem: A cure for a condition can only be sold once, but a temporary fix can be sold repeatedly. Drug patents thus contain a structural incentive to engage in the wrong kinds of research. Consequently, only around two per cent of new active ingredients and applications devised by drug companies are considered to make real medical progress.[70][71] This means that only a small proportion of taxpayer revenue directed to drug companies ultimately funds genuinely useful research. Firms in China and the US also subject Australia to many dubious and harmful patents, imposing additional barriers on potentially useful research.[72][73]

Drug patents are ultimately far too indirect and unreliable to work as a platform for something as vital as medical research. An alternative approach is needed. We propose the abolition of drug patents: this will allow the PBS to make use of generic drugs, freeing up significant funds which can be redirected towards publicly funded medical research. This research can target critical areas and ensure the development of meaningful cures. Drugs developed with public funds will enter the public domain where generic manufacturers compete on price and quality in a free market. The resulting drugs can be provided at low cost to consumers, and exported as aid to impoverished countries unable to afford monopoly drugs.

Funding will also be directed towards a trial ‘bounty’ system in which rewards are offered for the creation of drugs that serve an identified public good. Private research in this model will target areas not covered by public research, adding breadth to the system and reducing pressure on public research infrastructure. We will also seek to negotiate a new biomedical treaty, which would include a global bounty system to replace drug patents worldwide.[74][75] Taken together, these measures will grant a far greater role for the free market than exists in the current monopoly system. They will provide a broader research platform and cheaper drugs built in accord with the right incentives.

Education

Education is a powerful determinant of well-being. It is a source of wealth, a provider of life skills, an enabler of participation, and a core component of civil society. The 2000 Dakar World Education Conference noted that all young people have the right to an education that includes “learning to know, to do, to live together and to be".[76] At all stages of our education system, Pirate Party Australia will support vibrant secular instruction and forms of accountability that link closely to the community and public.

Early childhood education

Early childhood education is crucial to a child's development in later life. We will seek to provide a means for parents to play a greater role in childcare by trialling a system of childcare cooperatives based on successful overseas models.[77] Willing parents will be able to combine resources, providing low-cost or free childcare through a roster system in which parents take turns as carers and volunteers. This will provide social opportunities to new families and also reduce pressure on the existing childcare system.

School education

The principle of free, secular and compulsory schooling held sway for decades in Australia, but has been recently undermined by changes to school funding. These changes have shifted the funding balance away from public schools, and towards private and religious schools.[78] Justified in the name of choice, this change has actually reduced choices for many by leaving entire postcodes lacking any comprehensive public schooling.[79] Private school fees exclude students from low socio-economic backgrounds, concentrating them in the under-funded public system. Australia's recent approach to education has resulted in a low and falling ranking in global measures of performance among disadvantaged students.[80][81]

Private schooling also divides students along religious lines and has led to cases where taxpayer-funded schools are actively refusing to meet educational standards in areas such as science education.[82] Religious indoctrination (whether through organised schooling or chaplaincy programs) is a fundamentally inappropriate use of taxpayer funds in a secular country.

Pirate Party Australia believes that accountability, not false choice, should be the guiding light in allocating taxpayers' money. While private schools are entitled to exist, we believe they should return to a traditional funding model, with federal subsidies gradually withdrawn and redirected to sponsor a truly effective, needs-based funding system in public schools. Public schools can be revitalised through the abolition of paperwork-based accountability and vesting of control over administration, hiring and funds to principals and school boards, which will be open to parents.

Pirate Party Australia believes a greater emphasis should be placed on teaching life skills and entrepreneurialism to students. We will also seek to trial a funding mechanism to allow schools to 'bulk-bill' costs of after-school instruction so that qualified experts can be engaged to teach in areas of interest chosen by students and parents. Niche and special-interest education will encourage social mixing and provide more tools to overcome disadvantage.

To improve teaching standards, Pirate Party Australia advocates extensions in supported classroom time for trainee teachers in conjunction with a rise in top-end salaries for teachers with significant experience. We will also seek to reduce some of the institutional pressure placed on students to remain at school after Year 10, since forcing unwilling students to stay ultimately leads to the disruption of more engaged students. Students wishing to study at TAFE after Year 10 should be free to do so, with per-student funding following them.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education is increasingly important as we shift towards a more knowledge-based economy. While student numbers continue to rise, growing evidence exists of a troubling deterioration in standards and academic morale in universities. This manifests in various ways: approximately half of academics have been assessed to be at risk of psychological illness due to insecurity and overwork,[83] while two thirds believe academic freedom is being curtailed.[84] Higher education has suffered from efforts by successive governments to force it into a top-down, corporatist structure. This is an inappropriate form for an education system and one which has led to increasing stultification and surveillance, with demands for corporate style messaging eating away academic freedom of speech. The drive towards pseudo-measurement of educational outcomes has imposed unprecedented administrative costs, with administrators and managers now outnumbering academics (who nonetheless face increasing demands to conduct administration).

The impacts of corporatised education are uniformly contrary to what is intended. The narrow emphasis on vocational education is creating graduates unfit for many jobs - employers have raised issues with serious deficits in team work, creative thought and communication.[85] Administrative burdens imposed in the name of quality assurance are driving down quality by drawing resources out of teaching and research. Attempts to quantify educational outputs obscure more than they reveal. And the lowering of standards to accommodate overseas students is reducing Australia’s attractiveness as an international student destination.[86]

Genuine transparency means accountability to the general public, not to a corporate structure. We believe that publicly funded academic research should be made freely available to the public and no longer locked up behind publisher paywalls. We also believe in enhancing the quality of academic work by following the advice of academics themselves, who urgently seek fairer funding arrangements and greater autonomy. Education should be viewed as a pillar of civil society rather than a money making commodity, and we believe campuses should be encouraged to play a greater role in the community. Passion, curiosity and freedom to speak and question are key curbs to unhindered power, and a successful university system should embody those traits.

Research

Scientific research is vital to our future, and far more should be conducted to support our economy as well as our fundamental understanding about the world we inhabit. Pirate Party Australia would accordingly establish a $5 billion permanent endowment fund to foster fundamental research across all disciplines. We will also reverse short-sighted funding cuts to scientific and academic bodies. To support more applied research, Pirate Party Australia would trial an innovation voucher scheme. Vouchers will provide credit of up to $50,000 to small business for the purchase of R&D services from educational and research institutions, who then obtain voucher funds from the government. Vouchers will lead to an increase in research funding while ensuring priorities for such research are driven by business needs. They offer a way for small businesses to overcome relative disadvantage against large firms who have more capacity to engage in R&D. They will also build bridges between businesses and research sectors.

Reform of democratic institutions

Australia’s governance is facing a crisis of confidence. The parliament and the public service are becoming increasingly disconnected from society, even as political dialog and debate take on an increasingly scripted and toxic tone. The loss of public trust and respect threatens greater disengagement - a vicious cycle which needs to be met with determined efforts to restore accountability and trust to our democratic institutions.

Public integrity and trust rely on the public right to be informed about decisions taken on their behalf. This principle finds practical application in Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation.[87][88] Pirate Party Australia supports this legislation, but believes more can be done to enhance its effectiveness. A significant barrier to truly effective FoI laws is created through the application of blanket exemptions based on arbitrary judgments of relevance or on which authority claims ownership of the documents. While exemptions must exist, we believe they should be narrower, time limited, and justified by a higher threshold of due cause. This will provide not only greater faith in the FoI system, but a higher level of accountability and trust across all levels of government.

Another pillar of public integrity is the capacity to swiftly identify and manage wrongdoing and corruption. Whistleblowers are an essential part of this capacity, and an important check on potential abuses of power. Repeated instances of harsh and inappropriate punishment and covert forms of deterrence over the past 10 years provide a strong case for improving the robustness of whistleblower protections.[89] It is past time that whistleblowers gained the essential freedom to speak out without fear of undue reprisal, and with reasonable confidence that wrongs will be righted.

Transparency also requires periodic reviews of public sector spending and processes, and we accordingly support moves to conduct a comprehensive audit process. Also, since the state is funded by all citizens, we believe that services provided by the state and its authorized service providers should be offered subject to a firm principle of non-discrimination.

Institutional improvement should be accompanied by a lifting in political standards. Political conduct and dialogue in Australia is generally reckoned to be at a low ebb. Some improvement can be made by applying greater standards of openness with regard to the movement of money within the political system. However we also highlight the need for proper scrutiny of public spending: it should no longer be acceptable to shut down such scrutiny through the use of commercial-in-confidence clauses.[90]

Finally, we propose urgent measures to improve political conduct during elections. The election process is presently riddled with political manipulation of a type inconsistent with a healthy democracy. Instituting fixed terms removes one form of direct manipulation, but a better standard of political dialogue is also essential. Elections as conducted encourage a reliance on talking points and scripts which hide agendas, spread misinformation, and deny meaningful dialogue. A proper debate process modeled on the US approach will create a setting in which politicians are obliged to communicate meaningfully and respectfully with other and with the public. The addition of new voices to policy debates should also be encouraged, and Pirate Party Australia pledges to do all it can to support participation by restoring candidate fees to a reasonable level, and opposing recent legislation intended to prevent candidates from competing in elections.

Bill of Rights

Australia is one of the few remaining western democracies whose citizens and residents lack any significant, constitutionally declared rights. This lack of protection creates an imbalance of power between individuals and the state, and poses risks to privacy, free speech and individual choice. A bill of rights is overdue as a way to restore balance and provide unambiguous checks on the creeping intrusion of the state into private life.

We propose a referendum to alter the Australian Constitution and include a bill of rights, codifying a basic set of human rights and freedoms.[91] The Pirate Party proposal incorporates the most fundamental and essential elements of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[92] the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[93] and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[94]

Constitutional reform

The Constitution of Australia has been amended only eight times[95] since it came into force in 1901. It was drafted in the final decade of the Nineteenth Century and contains many flaws that reflect the cultural attitudes of the time.[96] The Australian Constitution can only be amended through a referendum, and Pirate Party Australia is committed to putting the following constitutional reforms on the agenda.

An Australian Bill of Rights

The Pirate Party supports the introduction of a constitutional Bill of Rights in Australia — view details.

Citizens' initiatives

Australians lack any direct way to enact, amend, repeal or vote for or against legislation which affects their lives. A solution to this is to allow citizens to directly petition the Commonwealth Parliament for referendums.

Citizens' initiatives allow citizens to directly participate in legislative decisions. Mechanisms of this kind have been implemented in various forms and to varying degrees in Austria,[97] at the supranational level in the European Union,[98] Finland,[99] all German states,[100] Hungary,[101] Italy,[102] Latvia,[103], Lichtenstein,[104] Lithuania,[105] New Zealand,[106] Poland,[107] Portugal,[108] Spain,[109] Switzerland,[110] several states of the United States[111] and Uruguay.[112]

The Pirate Party supports the right of Australians to exercise legislative power in certain circumstances using citizens' initiatives. However, the Pirate Party also recognises that setting a threshold is necessary to prevent abuse of the system by special interest groups.

The Pirate Party therefore supports two levels of initiatives modelled closely on the systems in Latvia, Hungary, Brandenburg and Hamburg,[113] but with adjustments made to accommodate Australia's significant geographic size and low population density. The first level, an agenda initiative, would have a lower threshold and be a binding petition to place an issue on the parliamentary agenda. If Parliament fails to take action, a full-scale initiative with a higher threshold would compel Parliament to hold a binding referendum. This allows legislative development to be guided by parliamentary institutions and procedures and to arrive at considered and enlightened decisions, as well as helping to avoid populism and the disregarding of minority interests.[114] Combining agenda and full-scale initiatives allows Australian citizens to encourage their representatives to take action, while providing a mechanism to challenge parliamentary decisions.

The Pirate Party supports legislation allowing citizens' initiatives as a temporary measure, but ultimately this right should be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and prohibition of racial discrimination

Although European colonisation of our country began in 1788, the Australian continent has been the home of indigenous societies and cultures for at least 40,000 years.[115] However, numerous indigenous societies have faced virtual destruction as a consequence of discrimination,[116] paternalism,[117] genocide,[118] as well as the introduction of diseases,[119] substance abuse,[120] slavery[121] and dependency on the state.[122] Families have been broken up,[123] and discrimination in the criminal justice system[124] has inflicted further harm on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their societies. Moves to amend the travesties of the past have been positive. The High Court's decision in the Mabo v Queensland (No 2)[125] overturned the doctrine of terra nullius that was used to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.[126] The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) restored some land rights to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The 2008 apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was symbolic of a nation willing to make amends for the horrors of the past.[127] However, more needs to be done before we can truly have reconciliation in Australia.

Efforts have been made to recognise the rights of indigenous peoples (particularly in relation to land) in places such as the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia and South Africa.[128] The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples draws attention to the recognition of indigenous inhabitants in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland (Denmark), Russia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and the Philippines, in addition to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.[129] These efforts range from recognition by the courts to treaties and constitutional recognition.

The Australian Constitution does not recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the original inhabitants of our country. It was drafted in an era of racial discrimination and the shadow on our constitution is undeniable.[130] In particular Section 25 permits states to discriminate on the basis of race by disqualifying persons of that race from voting, and Section 51(xxvi) permits the Commonwealth Parliament to create laws for "the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws."[131]

It is against this backdrop that the Pirate Party supports the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for a single referendum to repeal the 'race provisions' in the Australian Constitution (Sections 25 and 51(xxvi)), recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the original inhabitants and their languages as the original languages, and to include an explicit prohibition of racial discrimination.[132] The Pirate Party agrees that, although there is still a long way to go, "constitutional recognition would provide a foundation to bring the 2.5 per cent [of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples] and the 97.5 per cent [of non-indigenous Australians] together, in a spirit of equality, recognition and respect, and contribute to a truly reconciled nation for the benefit of all Australians."[133]

Tax and welfare

Australia's tax and welfare systems have grown so complicated that they are almost impossible to understand.[134] Our tax system includes more than 120 taxes[135], with the complexity forcing more than two thirds of taxpayers to file returns through tax agents.[136] Buried in the complexity are distortions which promote speculation and borrowing at the expense of work and saving,[137] burdensome business and payroll taxes which hamper entrepreneurialism and job creation,[138] and ill-conceived charges on home sales which penalise home buyers and the young. Our tax system is estimated to impose efficiency losses of over $20 billion on the economy every year.[139]

The welfare system faces similar problems: it has grown in ad-hoc fashion to encompass more than 20 separate payments, each with different means tests, sub-payments, administrative arrangements and compliance regimes.[140] Administrative costs for tax and welfare run to over $5 billion annually, with $80 billion "churned" between systems (collected as tax and then returned to the same taxpayers as welfare) each year. The complexity of systems makes government transparency impossible, with the financial relationship between taxpayers and the state left unfathomable to taxpayers and policymakers alike.

Poor interaction between tax and welfare systems traps people in poverty. Recipients leaving welfare for work face a combination of large benefit cuts and income tax, which can lead to effective losses of more than 70% of earned income.[141] This punishes the drive to be self-sufficient, and poor incentives are leading to inter-generational welfare dependency.[142] Attempts to force behaviour change through harassment and micromanagement add to bureaucracy, but cannot reduce overall unemployment or correct the underlying incentive problem.

Basic income through reverse taxation

The advance of digital technology places many jobs at risk,[143] making it increasingly urgent to reduce tax on labour to keep it competitive. At the same time, a host of issues around transparency, bureaucracy and misaligned incentives need to be addressed. Ultimately, what is required is a comprehensively different model of tax and social support. The Pirate Party proposes a replacement of current systems with a unified tax and welfare system underpinned by a negative income tax.

Negative income tax is tax in reverse - money paid by the government to those with low or no taxable income. It is social support provided directly through the tax system rather than through a separate welfare system. The Pirate Party plan is for a tax threshold of $40,000 in conjunction with a tax rate of 35%. Under this plan the first $40,000 of earnings will be tax-free, with a flat rate of 35% applied on earnings above that. However, people earning less than $40,000 will receive 35% of the shortfall transferred to them from the government in the form of negative income tax. Thus, persons earning nothing at all are guaranteed a basic income of $14,000 (representing 35% of the $40,000 by which they fall below the threshold). The following examples show how income is modified under a negative income tax:

Income before tax Tax threshold Gap between income & threshold Tax rate Change in income Income after tax
$0 $40,000 -$40,000 35% +$14,000 $14,000
$30,000 $40,000 -$10,000 35% +$3,500 $33,500
$40,000 $40,000 $0 35% Nil $40,000
$50,000 $40,000 $10,000 35% -$3,500 $46,500
$100,000 $40,000 $60,000 35% -$21,000 $79,000
A lower and simpler tax rate can be brought about by closing loopholes and unifying tax and welfare systems. A basic income guarantee will replace complex welfare measures, clearing out poverty traps and bureaucracy.

Negative income tax is a progressive tax system which provides a safety net for those unable to earn. It also supplements poverty-level wages, providing those on low incomes with more latitude to improve their training and skills. Other taxpayers gain a significantly higher tax free threshold which efficiently replaces the cluttered array of existing thresholds and offsets. Many forms of middle class and business activity are already supported with automatic tax credits: providing social support under the same principle will restore a form of balance between state and citizens, since the government will no longer be able to take income from citizens while refusing counter-obligations to citizens whose income collapses. The current tax system discourages work by taxing it more than other sources of income such as capital gains and 'unearned' income including inherited wealth. Under a negative income tax system all forms of income are treated equally, allowing the basic tax rate to be lowered across the board.

Social support delivered through an automatic mechanism will foster 'positive liberty' by granting universal flexibility to receive education and training, volunteer, create art and culture or raise children without bureaucratic obstacles and complex payment rules. The income of farmers and workers with erratic working arrangements will be stabilised. Churn between systems will cease, since no recipient of benefits will pay tax and no taxpayer will receive benefits. By stepping aside, the state can cut swaths of bureaucracy while freeing individuals to explore their own potential, take entrepreneurial risks and let diversity and creativity flourish.

Most importantly, under a negative income tax no taxpayer will lose more than 35% of any dollar they earn. This will sweep poverty traps out of the system and provide a strong and permanent incentive for the unemployed to seek work.

Income guarantees have been trialled in Canada, with benefits including improved graduation rates, reduced domestic violence and better public health.[144][145] In the US, the earned income tax credit (which tops up the wages of low-paid workers) has reduced poverty by enhancing opportunities for training and education among the low paid.[146] Economists across the political spectrum have called for further implementations.[147]

Supporting enterprise

The Pirate Party will abolish the most damaging taxes and lower the tax burden on work and investment.

Case studies demonstrate a clear link between lower company tax and higher employment growth, economic diversification and international investment.[148][149][150] The best way to balance economic and environmental priorities is to reduce company tax while also removing fossil fuel subsidies from the system along with unproductive tax offsets such as dividend imputation.[151][152][153] To further reduce costs and complexity for business, the Pirate Party will remove payroll tax and GST, which burden businesses and hamper job creation. These and dozens of other inefficient taxes can be removed and replaced with a single low and broad consumption tax as recommended in the Henry tax review.[154][155]

Supporting society

Pirate Party Australia believes taxes on carbon emissions are preferable to taxes on savings and work. Accordingly, our plan preserves carbon taxing, while reducing income and other taxes. We also support the indexation of fuel excise, but believe the revenue should be used to abolish regressive car registration fees. This will ensure motorists are taxed according to "user pays" principles, with more frequent road users paying more tax. It will also improve the incentive to purchase efficient cars.

Tax reform can address the crisis around housing affordability. Pirate Party Australia will remove stamp duty (which hugely penalises new home buyers) and raise equivalent revenue through a nationwide land tax. Land taxes are preferable to most taxes since they levy on products of nature rather than products of labour. They are paid primarily by the wealthy and therefore add progressiveness to the tax code. They also encourage productive use and sale of idle land, which will increase housing supply.[156] Pirate Party Australia would also remove negative gearing and unwind the present tax break on housing capital gains: both of these loopholes carry significant budget costs and have been major drivers of runaway house prices over the past 15 years.[157]

Finally, the Pirate Party will classify all charities as 'deductible gift recipients', making every charitable donation and activity tax-deductible. At the same time, we will seek to remove tax exemptions linked to 'advancement of religion' since a secular society has no grounds to discriminate between taxpayers on the basis of their beliefs.

The Pirate Party supports reduced bureaucracy and an overall tax and spending ratio below 25 per cent of GDP for all layers of government. We seek to deliver a tax system worthy of the digital age and a smaller, smarter government which frees its citizens to truly reach for life and liberty.

Energy, environment and climate change

Pirate Party Australia supports science-based action and therefore accepts the scientific view on the need to address climate change. The welfare of future generations is important enough to warrant application of the precautionary principle in our environmental management. Accordingly, Pirate Party Australia seeks to step up our response to climate change capitalise on the vast potential that science and technology now offer.

A 21st century energy grid

Australia has significant natural advantages as an energy producer. However, persistent under-investment has left an energy model riddled with problems. Obsolete coal power plants across the nation have deteriorated to the point that accumulated maintenance costs have topped $100 billion.[158] A “business as usual” approach will pass the entire burden of costs to consumers and businesses in the form of perpetually rising energy prices. This comes on top of the hidden costs coal power already imposes our health, waterways and ecosystems.

Human activity has increased the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases to levels not seen for many hundreds of thousands of years, and the rise is accelerating.

Investment in renewable energy generation offers more than just a chance to liberate the economy from these costs. Renewable generation can democratise energy markets.[159] Onsite solar generation and community ownership is the 21st century alternative to centralised state- and corporate-owned grid monopolies. We believe the trend toward solar energy generation should be supported through the introduction of a strong and unified national solar feed-in tariff. Feed-in tariffs have been highly successful in developing baseload renewable grids overseas,[160] and the unification of piecemeal state schemes will provide essential certainty and simplicity for businesses.[161] The Pirate Party would seek to extend solar tariffs to larger scale solar installations, and support businesses and community centres as well as households. To offset energy poverty, vouchers would be distributed to low income earners to enable installation of solar PV, solar hot water systems, or energy efficiency improvements.

Pirate Party Australia also supports improvements to energy efficiency standards for vehicles and buildings and a roll-out of facilities for electric vehicles (EVs). EV batteries are valuable components of a renewable energy grid since their capacity to act as 'dispatchable demand' is useful to help to balance energy supply.

The weight of scientific evidence clearly shows that the uncontrolled burning of remaining global coal reserves will have severe effects on global climate, with impacts on our ecology, oceans, cities and farms.[162] This manifests the principle of privatised profits and socialised losses, which the Pirate Party opposes. Pirate Party Australia will accordingly will seek to implement a phased-in tax on coal exports, which will ultimately bring exported emissions under the same carbon price as domestic emissions. A fixed carbon price is an effective way to drive investment, cut emissions and reduce taxes on work and savings, and is less opaque and volatile than an ETS.[163] Revenue raised through taxing coal exports will fund climate change measures at no cost to domestic taxpayers.

While the changes required to our energy model are significant, the benefits will be immense. A transformation of Australia’s energy grid will meet climate change objectives and reduce the debilitating costs of dirty power sources on economic growth, public health,[164] and waterways.[165] Investment in our farms and regions will provide economic stimulus, create tens of thousands of skilled jobs, and improve the resilience of farms and small businesses by allowing them to 'dual use' their land and premises to supply energy. Our economy will benefit from lower and less volatile energy prices and the avoidance of dead-weight costs attached to maintaining an ageing coal grid.

Investment in renewable energy is more than just a response to climate change: it is an important economic reform.

Preserving Australia’s ecology

Pirate Party Australia believes management of our environment should be holistic and reflect the best available scientific knowledge. Cases such as the Murray-Darling system demonstrate the risks of splitting ecosystem management across state borders: a more unified approach which recognises the interconnections and complexity of ecosystems is needed.[166] Accordingly, we will press for the development of a comprehensive biodiversity matrix to better classify land and ocean ecosystems. This will underpin a more scientific approach to land management, which can be further enhanced through expanded Federal environmental oversight conducted under an independent authority. A biodiversity matrix will also provide the public with essential information about the ecological health of our continent and inform potential expansion of our critical national parks.

We also urge a halt to coal seam gas (CSG) extraction, which is currently being undertaken from a position of profound ignorance regarding its impacts on rivers, groundwater, and food security. Given the emerging evidence of fugitive emissions leaks and other unforeseen impacts,[167] we believe hydraulic fracturing should be subject to a moratorium until meaningful evidence is available to demonstrate its safety.

Questions of ecology and energy are ultimately about adjudicating between the rights of current and future generations. The Pirate Party believes in the adoption of an open and scientific framework to help inform these difficult questions.

Animal welfare

The Pirate Party is opposed to animal abuse and believes our laws should be informed by scientific research which demonstrates the capacity of animals to feel emotion and pain.[168] The improvement of public understanding through transparency and scientific discovery has been crucial to improvements in animal welfare to date, and we believe in the further application of these principles. Accordingly, we support existing efforts to create an independent statutory authority to conduct research and improve animal welfare outcomes. We also support improvements in the level of transparency applying to animal products.

The Pirate Party believes live exports need to be examined, with ongoing efforts made to promote chilled meat exports as an alternative to the live cattle trade: live exports are characterized by months-long voyages, unsanitary conditions and total absence of any freedom of movement, with a significant follow-up risk of abuse in destination countries.[169][170] Efforts to improve live export conditions—in conjunction with sensible domestic reforms—offer the best chance for a 'net' gain in global animal welfare.

Marriage

The Marriage Act in current form denies same sex couples a human right which is taken for granted in mainstream, heterosexual society. The Marriage Amendment Act 2004 pushed this discrimination further by imposing a declaration, compulsorily recited at all weddings, that marriage in Australia is an exclusionary institution only to occur between a man and a woman.[171] This imposes religious principles into state ceremonies, undermining the separation of Church and State—a principle which lacks explicit protection in the Australian Constitution.[172] It also feeds existing stigmas related to homosexuality, which cause significant harm: discrimination against same-sex couples is known to cause alienation, anxiety and depression, and the rate for suicide attempts among LGBT is 2.5 times higher than that of the general population.[173] The repercussions place a large burden on our health system.[174]

As the modifications enacted in 2004 demonstrate,[175] the Marriage Act is too easily used as a vehicle for political grandstanding, to the detriment of equality and civil liberties.[176] Protecting marriage is not a matter of excluding particular individuals: we should instead exclude the state, which has shown itself to be incapable of overseeing fair and proper marriage laws. We accordingly support returning marriage to the community and replacing the Marriage Act with a Civil Unions Act. This will offer equal treatment to same-sex couples, and help to ensure that all Australian citizens receive the same recognition and legal rights.

Drugs

People have always taken drugs, and modern attempts at prohibition are at odds with history as well as human nature. The war on drugs is best understood as a war on a market. Such wars are futile: demand always creates supply, and ad-hoc attacks on supply channels do nothing other than reduce the quality of drugs, and increase the risks. History shows that even the harshest attempts to outlaw a market do not make the market go away, but merely create an unregulated black market in place of the legal one, making criminals of regular citizens and funding organised crime.

The cost of the war on drugs

At present the illegal drug market is worth around $300 billion per year,[177] making a mockery of prohibition. The choice we face is not between drugs and no drugs, but between legal and illegal markets.

The illegal market funnels vast profits to criminals and imposes equally vast costs on society. The US alone spends $50 billion per year fighting the war on drugs,[178] and global spending is far greater. The secondary costs are incalculable: jailing people for drug offences does far more to destroy individual lives and potential than the drugs themselves. The policy is poorly targeted, excluding alcohol and tobacco but imposing massive punishments on non-violent users of much less harmful products.[179] In producer countries, the illegal market has enriched drug cartels, causing thousands of deaths every year,[180] corrupting civil societies and creating a risk of failed states.

Prohibition offers no success to justify the cost: figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime show no observable decline in global drug use,[181] nor is any decline evident in Australia.[182] Results among individual nations show no correlation between drug use levels and the harshness of drug laws.[183]

The alternative

The experience of Portugal—where decriminalisation led to an observable fall in drug deaths[184]—suggests that a much better approach exists. Imprisonment is an immoral and ineffective way of handling mental health issues and other drivers of drug abuse. It is cheaper and more effective to handle these issues in the sphere of public health. Legalising and taxing safe drugs will raise revenue to fund better support services for addicts and their families. Decriminalising other drugs will broaden options for treatment and allow help to be extended without the threat of criminal sanctions. Effective policy must offer help and treatment, but must also recognise that most drug users are neither addicts nor criminals.

In handling drugs, policymakers should also take note of their one success: the campaign against tobacco. The anti-tobacco campaign has reduced the proportion of smokers by 40% over 20 years[185] through a combination of advertising, warnings, and social sanctions in a legal framework. It is a far more successful model than prohibition, and a broader application of it should be considered.

Ultimately however, civil liberties must be respected. A belief in civil liberties does not require approval of every private choice, merely acceptance that choice should exist. The alternative has cost us too much, for too long.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Handling of asylum seekers is one of the great policy failures of recent years. Domestically, political and legal processes are mired in buck-passing and blame - a dysfunction mirrored in wider regional disputes.[186][187][188] The backlog of boat arrivals has overwhelmed capacity for processing, drownings at sea continue to escalate, and growing evidence is emerging of inept and inhumane handling of the problem in Australia and overseas.[189]

A crisis on such a scale requires a regional solution. We believe efforts should begin at once to set up a single regional asylum seeker 'queue'. Asylum seekers arriving anywhere in the region would be subject to a single processing system overseen by an independent body with all participating nations accepting a share of approved refugees. The existence of a common regional queue would remove specific incentives to travel to Australia, reducing drowning and deterring backdoor economic migration. A transparent allocation process should reduce disputes between nations, and pooling of information should improve document and identity checking. The creation of a new system of oversight allows for a best practice approach built from the ground up, with a humane appeals process and a means for swift and safe return of arrivals deemed not to be asylum seekers.

Such a scheme would require funding, leadership, and specific incentives provided by Australia to encourage sign-up. However, Australia currently spends over $1 billion per year on detention facilities,[190] and redirection of these funds will free up significant resources. Nations such as Indonesia would have strong incentives to sign up, both to receive aid, and to obtain help with settling their own large backlog of asylum seekers. As participating countries would be required to sign the UN Refugee Convention, funding and aid from Australia could become a mechanism for improving region-wide standards in asylum seeker handling.

Asylum seeking is lawful, and detention should not last longer than the minimum time-frame necessary to assess claims and conduct health and security checks. Approved asylum seekers can be brought into the community, provided with support and training, and settled in areas where jobs remain persistently vacant (the National Farmers Federation estimates around 96,000 jobs are unfilled in regional areas).[191]

The Pirate Party believes it is past time that our response to the plight of vulnerable people embodied our best qualities instead of our worst.

Foreign policy and treaty making

Civil and digital liberties, transparency, and human rights are universal principles and should be embodied in foreign as well as domestic policy. Indeed, foreign and domestic spheres are often difficult to separate, with international treaties having potential to drive domestic lawmaking.

Like all legal mechanisms, treaties derive legitimacy through consent and consultation. For this reason, treaties such as ACTA (which affect surveillance, [192] generic medicine,[193] and digital rights), have drawn concern due to the intense secrecy surrounding their formulation and negotiation. While the secrecy itself was nullified by regular leaks, the process was still seen to exclude many potentially affected parties. Far more legitimacy and balance will attach to treaty outputs when openness and participation are enshrined in the negotiation process, and potential threats to sovereignty are removed.

Recent revelations of massive and warrantless monitoring by the US National Security Agency also demand an alternative, and stronger response from the Australian government. Australians are being subjected to offshore monitoring on a massive scale with no checks and balances and no access to appeals or accountability. The notion that allies can be treated as suspects with no rights is harmful both to domestic sovereignty and broader international relations. One method of safeguarding the liberties of internet users will be to ensure that foreign whistle blowers offering information relevant to the public good are granted protection under Australian whistle blower laws. We also believe negotiations should commence on a new treaty to enshrine the principles of the internet and protect the rights of its users.

Australia should also continue to support human rights overseas, with the first step being to meet agreed aid targets. Plans to redirect foreign aid to handle domestic boat arrivals set a bad precedent and should be reversed. Properly targeted aid may well do more to reduce such arrivals in the long-run by curbing poverty and environmental damage overseas.

Foreign humanitarian aid should be provided for genuine humanitarian reasons, and in a manner that supports the improvement of local conditions. It is sometimes the case that aid is provided to foreign nations in situations where the real benefit is to the business and producers in the donor countries and the aid actually has negative effects upon the recipient countries.[194][195][196] For example the increase in US rice delivered to Haiti as food aid in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 2010 has put further pressure on local producers already struggling after years of their market being flooded by cheap, heavily subsidized US rice and very low tariffs imposed by the IMF. [197][198]

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