Pirate Party Australia supports in principle the government’s call for a review of the space industry capability in Australia. This is an opportunity for the government to win back trust lost in the technology sector through implementation of the short sighted fibre to the node model for the National Broadband Network. A rapidly expanding Australian space industry should form part of a multistrand approach to science, technology, and innovation policy as laid out in Pirate Party Australia’s policy platform, which calls for a National Science Plan[1].

The creation of a national space agency provides opportunity for visionary new public policy to place Australia at the forefront of global aerospace and telecommunications industries, bringing investors and technological capital to Australia. This matches Pirate Party Australia’s policy for the formation of a National Institute for Space Science and a $100 million grant for development of infrastructure as recommended by the 2010 National Committee for Space Sciences Decadal plan[2]. It will also support the Party’s proposal for an online science portal available to schools and the general public containing free materials for science education[1].

The Pirate Party also recognises regional areas relying on access through the NBN Co’s Skymuster satellites have been experiencing ongoing congestion related issues[3][4][5][6] which a vibrant private space industry will help address through provision of smaller, cheaper and more advanced satellites to fill the gaps in coverage, bandwidth or caused by outages. To assist the development of a private space industry, the Party suggests a national space agency will provide industry direction through public investment in infrastructure and research into cutting edge technologies in the fields of aerospace, telecommunications, navigation and climate sciences.

The ongoing review efforts to modernise and reform the Space Activities Act 1998[7] are an important opportunity for the government to demonstrate policy leadership, where the Pirate Party already has within its member developed policy platform. The general public are ready for Australia to take a lead position in peaceful space exploration, with the release of the draft legislation expected later this month it should be an exciting conclusion to the 2017 National Science Week.

[1] https://pirateparty.org.au/wiki/Platform#A_national_Science_Plan
[2] https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/reports/decadal-plan-australian-space-science-2010-2019-building-national-presence
[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-03/nt-government-warns-nbn-over-technically-inferior-satellite/8411308
[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2016-05-05/data-drought-survey-results/7386780
[5] http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/nbn/launch-of-second-nbn-satellite-to-address-australias-digital-divide/news-story/cedd3640918e51d0aa8e4568a36231b0
[6] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-02/sky-muster-service-massively-improved-in-rural-areas-nbn-says/8488884
[7] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2004C01013

The results of Pirate Party Australia’s July 2017 National Congress are in!

The Pirate Party held its National Congress in Melbourne on July 29—30 for the purposes of amending the Party Constitution, amending and adopting policies and deciding leadership positions, and as an opportunity for members of the Party to socialise in person. The results of the now-concluded week-long voting period can be announced. The Party had a turnout of approximately 14% from a pool of 1,355 participants.

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In the wake of the Melbourne terror incident and the terror attacks in London and Manchester the Federal government is attempting to shift some of the blame for the actions of the terrorists in these latest attacks on to large Internet companies and the encryption technology which keeps us all safe online.

Pirate Party Australia opposes any weakening of encryption because it will be ineffective, it will harm the privacy of ordinary citizens and it will make it easier for private data to be stolen by hackers, both criminal and state sponsored.

The Internet relies on functioning encryption to protect users from attack. It is estimated that in 2016 ‘cybercrime’ increased by 30% and cost the Australian economy three billion dollars.[1] Every time a vulnerability is created, such as allowing intelligence agencies to access private communications, it creates another vector for attacks to occur.

“Security online is weak enough without the government pushing to make it weaker,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Any vulnerability created for intelligence agencies is a vulnerability for people with more nefarious intentions. A good example of this occurred last year when security experts published a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Secure Boot, a system that is designed to protect systems from hacking. Microsoft included a workaround so developers could test systems without needing to validate the software. This was used to install malware that Secure Boot was specifically designed to stop[2]. With such benign work arounds being exploited for malware, breaking end-to-end encryption would be a disaster in the making.”

“This is the beginning of the next round of ‘crypto wars’ between the government and private citizens. With each new power granted to spies and law enforcement agencies, people concerned with their privacy take new measures to protect themselves from the government,” Mr Frew continued. “Forcing social media giants to employ backdoors in their messaging services will just lead to other platforms being adopted and those who wish to communicate anonymously will continue to do so. Those without technical knowhow to work around broken encryption will be at greater risk.”

“Private communications are vital for an open society. When citizens believe they are under constant surveillance, they self-censor and this creates a chilling effect. Legitimate criticisms of government policy may not be aired and our democracy suffers as a result. This is also a risk to the economy, with businesses relying on encryption to securely do business, weakening encryption puts businesses at significant risk. We call upon the government to abandon its misguided plans to weaken encryption and instead suggest more investment in police resources to manage the known terrorist threats. Increasing the size of the data haystack collected by mass surveillance isn’t working, it has turned everyone into a suspect and eroded the presumption of innocence.” Simon concluded.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-19/cybercrime,-online-scamming-of-business-up-30pc:-accc/8537992
[2] https://www.wired.com/2016/08/microsoft-secure-boot-hack

The Australian Federal Police have this afternoon admitted[1] to accessing a journalist’s metadata without a warrant. It is less than a year since data retention scheme went live, with all Australian individuals and businesses communications metadata now saved by communications providers. The Pirate Party has warned of this exact scenario occurring since the metadata collection scheme was proposed. It should come as no surprise to anyone with a grain of foresight that this would occur.

“When people campaigning against data retention said ‘get a warrant’, they meant it” said Michael Keating, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. “Our fears that anyone with access to the data retention system could access metadata without needing a warrant were not unfounded, and the AFP have confirmed our position as being correct. Setting up a mass surveillance system was always going to lead to egregious breaches in privacy and we only know about this one because the victim was a journalist.”

“What this breach has made clear is that there are no mechanisms in place to deal with failures in the data retention scheme. The victim of the breach has not been notified and to add insult to injury, the AFP have played down the breach by saying “the contents of the call were not accessed,” he continued.

“The AFP clearly do not understand the damage to the privacy of Australian citizens that every improper access to their data brings. They, and indeed any organisation that can access metadata records, should not be trusted with accessing records without a warrant. It should not take a failure of process to prevent individuals privacy from being breached,” Mr Keating said.

“The Pirate Party is committed to repealing the data retention system. It removes Australians’ right to privacy, as the AFP have shown they can access what they like, when they like. Journalists should be asking a lot of questions about this breach. Every individual should be questioning their local member as to their right to privacy” he concluded.

The Pirate Party urges Australians to contact their local member and tell them warrantless access of their metadata is simply unacceptable. The Pirate Party re-affirms its stance to protecting privacy in Australia.

[1] https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/afp-reports-breach-tia-act-commonwealth-ombudsman

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