Vast majority of Australians reject warrantless surveillance

Statistics from a recent online poll conducted by Essential Research indicate that 80% of the population is opposed to warrantless access of phone and Internet records by the Government. The poll surveyed 1,017 respondents between 14 and 17 February, and a final report is expected to be released soon. The results come as the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is conducting a comprehensive revision of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to address such concerns[1].

Pirate Party Australia holds the view that any surveillance conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies must only be carried out when there is enough evidence for the investigators to obtain a warrant. Every use of surveillance is an intrusion of a citizen’s personal privacy and the statistics show the vast majority of Australians believe there must be sufficient evidence that the privacy breach is necessary before surveillance can be undertaken.

“This is a vindication for everyone who is working to put a stop to the warrantless surveillance that has become prevalent over the last few years,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “In the last telecommunications and surveillance annual report there were over 300,000 uses of Australians’ metadata without a warrant[2]. This could amount to about 1 in 70 Australians having their privacy breached with no judicial oversight. This needs to be put to a stop immediately.”

The results show that 71% of Coalition voters oppose warrantless access, suggesting that it is in the Government’s best interests to prohibit warrantless access to communications records to maintain public support. The Pirate Party and other activist organisations have been concerned about the lack of judicial oversight, and Essential Research’s poll suggests that the bulk of Australians are too.

“The growth of mass surveillance has been carried out with no public consultation and marks a shift in the balance of power between government and citizens. This is made worse by the Coalition being even more opaque than the Labor Party were when they were in power. We need greater transparency and accountability from government and for the people of Australia to be treated as citizens, not suspects. Just because technology enables vast stores of data to be collected, it does not make it right,” Mr Frew continued.

Despite Labor voters being the largest opponents of warrantless access (88% disapproval), it was the Attorney-General’s Department under the previous Labor Governments that proposed significant reforms to national security legislation which would have increased the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access records without warrants. Depending on the direction the Abbott Government takes, the results indicate that at least one major party has an enormous disconnect with its supporters on this issue.

Submissions to the review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act close on 27 February 2014. Pirate Party Australia will be making a submission, and urges concerned citizens and organisations to submit to the review.


The raw statistics provided by Essential Research are as follows:

Approve (total): 16%
Disapprove (total): 80%
Don’t know: 4%

Approve (Labor): 10%
Approve (Lib/Nat): 24%
Approve (Green): 11%
Approve (Other): 19%

Disapprove (Labor): 88%
Disapprove (Lib/Nat): 71%
Disapprove (Green): 85%
Disapprove (Other): 80%