It has been revealed that the Copyright Agency, the body tasked with collecting copyright payments from universities, schools and other public institutions, has been lining its own pockets with fees collected for orphan works. Instead of the money being used to encourage new works by authors and journalists, it has been secretly allocated to wage a campaign against the Productivity Commission’s proposal to introduce a fair use copyright provision in Australia.[1]

“Whilst we advocate for users to have the right to copy works for non-commercial purposes, what the Copyright Agency has done is essentially theft, going by the standards rights-holders usually label others.” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We believe that collecting money from educational institutions for quoting works should be done away with, as proposed by the Productivity Commission. However, whilst it is part of the copyright system authors deserve the full amount collected, or the institutions should get a refund. These funds were collected to support creative efforts, not to bank roll lawyers and self serving marketing campaigns.”

“Milking educational institutions for income, refusing to hold it for the rightful recipients of the money and then using it to wage a political campaign against those institutions is villainous,” Mr Frew continued. “It is, at best, an attempt to defend the Copyright Agency’s own relevance, if fair use provisions were introduced into copyright law, their role in collecting and distributing copyright money would diminish.”

Australia has many of the worst aspects of the US copyright system, introduced as part of the Australia US Free Trade Agreement, without any of the benefits. Fair use allows for wider use of copyrighted items than exists under the Australian fair dealing system, which includes quotation rights for educational purposes. The restrictive fair dealing system in Australia restricts what is possible for new technology companies and digital innovators. A company like Google would be sued out of existence before they could get off the ground in Australia’s current regulatory environment.

“We call on the federal government to enact fair use provisions into Australian copyright law as a matter of urgency. Innovation is being hampered by the vague and overbearing fair dealing provisions in Australian copyright law” he concluded.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/copyright-agency-diverts-funds-meant-for-authors-to-15m-fighting-fund-20170420-gvol0w.html

In an epic violation of trust, Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge has intentionally given out a Centrelink client’s personal information to Fairfax media, as a part of a political campaign to discredit and silence Australians speaking out against the nightmare of Centrelink’s debt recovery program[1]. The article, published by Fairfax media[2], contained personal information that was used to “correct the record”, but only serves to highlight the abuse of power within Federal Government departments who would rather be seen to silence criticism than fix the issue at hand.

“By releasing personal information to ‘correct the record’, Centrelink and federal government MPs and officials have set a dangerous precedent when it comes to handling the information of Australians” said Pirate Party Deputy President, Michael Keating. “This action shows the federal government’s intent with collection of personal data from multiple sources, and it’s not for national security reasons. Regardless of what the official line is, this appears to be nothing short of a department attempting to silence criticism in the bluntest way possible, despite there being legitimate issues in process and service delivery from this department. Silencing criticism does not resolve the problems, it only serves to amplify them.”

The release of personal data may be authorised by the Department of Human Services to “correct public statements”[3], but is an entirely disproportionate reaction. This comes from a government who at this time is seeking to link various data collected on individuals, from Census data, to metadata and phone records. The implications of a government department issuing personal data with little to no oversight and the intent of silencing an individual, is horribly irresponsible from a government who claims to be “adult”. We note that at this time, requests to ministers’ diary entries go unanswered[4], which highlights a running hypocrisy on transparency by the Federal Government.

“The point made by the release of this information is that if you speak out about your experience with a government department in a negative light, the government will happily blackmail you into silence.” Mr Keating continued. “This is nothing short of moral incompetence from a heartless government, who also has access to your metadata, call records, and Census information. We have no doubt government departments will access cross-linked data without a warrant or oversight in the future to ‘deal’ with people or problems. We are appalled and demand that the bureaucrats and ministers involved take responsibility for their actions; it’s what adults should do.”

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In the wake of the proposed cuts to Newstart that will see the newly unemployed have to wait a month before receiving benefits and people under the age of 25 being forced onto Youth Allowance with a reduced income, Pirate Party Australia calls for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income.

“We live in an era of increasingly precarious work lives, people are losing jobs to manufacturers based in the developing world and increasingly to automation,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “The government’s response is to punish people who lose their jobs by forcing them to survive on no income for a month before they can receive benefits and forcing older people onto ‘Youth’ allowance. We believe there is another way.”

“We support the implementation of a Universal Basic Income to provide everyone with the means to survive, to get education, to try to set up their own businesses whatever they wish. Rather than forcing people into desperate situations or punishing them with made-up Centrelink debts, we should ensure that everyone has a place in society,” he continued.

The Pirate Party Universal Basic Income policy is based on the idea of applying a negative income tax, where every Australian is provided with a set amount each year, which is reduced at the tax rate until it reaches zero, at which point income tax starts to be paid. For more information see the detailed policy[1].

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The Pirate Party proudly supports the American people in their protests against the troubling treatment of immigrants and refugees to their country. The freedom which allows the people to speak out against cruel and unjust laws is vital to a healthy democracy. The targetting of specific races, cultures or faiths will only divide communities, rather than unite them. It is promising to see that the American people are still willing to welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Even if their government is not.

“We think that Australia has much to learn from America in this matter” said Simon Frew, Pirate Party President. “We do not treat refugees well in Australia. We do not give them a fair go. Amnesty International has called us out on our “Appalling abuse” and “neglect of refugees on Nauru”[1]. Australia has even published the “World’s Harshest Anti-Immigration Ad”[2] in an attempt to alienate us from those seeking refuge.”

The US has agreed to take on the refugees that Australia refuses to accept, and we have been told that Australia will follow the example of Trump on border protection policies[3]. The Pirate Party does not stand for the values projected by Malcolm Turnbull’s government, and asks all Australians to stand and voice their opposition to this government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

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Since reports first surfaced of issues with Centrelink’s new data matching systems linked to Australian Tax Office data, Pirate Party Australia’s social media accounts have been swamped with stories of incorrect debt claims going back many years, including debts from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

It is clear from many reports that Centrelink is automatically generating flawed debts based on algorithms that will obviously produce incorrect results[1], this new attempt by the government to crassly reduce spending on social security has revealed their true policy: to treat anyone who makes a legitimate claim as guilty until proven innocent.

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