We recently saw Trump pardon four Blackwater security guards who killed numerous Iraqi civilians.[1] In gratitude for the Australian government’s mindless support of the US-Australian alliance, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was repaid with an American military decoration for “leadership in addressing global challenges”[2] which underlines the hypocrisy of US foreign policy, as Morrison has been missing in action during recent Australian crises[3] but not missing so much that he was unable to help out his mates in the gas and coal industry[4].

It illustrates how the US is unaccountable for its actions, because it refuses to acknowledge the International Criminal Court. On September 16 2007 Blackwater security contractors escorting a US military convoy in Nissour Square, Baghdad, Iraq, “escalated the force to defend themselves”[5] by opening fire on civilians, killing 17 and injuring 20. Just two months earlier and 16 kilometres away, two US AH-64 Apache helicopters launched a series of airstrikes which killed 12-18 civilians including 2 Reuters war correspondents, the footage of which was released on Wikileaks entitled “Collateral Murder”. Originally denied by the US Government, it was only admitted to after it was exposed on Wikileaks – even if there might be a reason, or an apology to be made, the US has form in terms of denial and cover-up. This further serves to reinforce the worth of Wikileaks in holding Government abuse to account.

To be sure, it was the own processes of the US Government that found the original claims of self-defence by the Blackwater security guards were not valid, where they ultimately ended up charged and in prison. Nevertheless, this one trace of justice has now been lost, as the result of the whims of a US President who has through inaction managed to kill hundreds of thousands of people amongst close to 20 million cases of Covid-19 during his term.

Our own Government has its own dubious record – of failing to support Julian Assange, of doing the dirty on East Timor and hanging out Witness K and Bernard Collaery to dry. Our support of the US is about cosying up to the powerful in the hope they will do us favours; our foreign policy is rarely informed by principle.

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In a recent announcement, the South Australian Police have announced they are now treating gel blasters (a recreational item similar to paintball markers) as equivalent to firearms under the SA Firearms Act 2015 and Firearms Regulations 2017. This decision comes despite SAPOL communications describing them as “imitation firearms”, and with no mention of their exclusive recreational use on private properties.[1]

Pirate Party councillor, and resident of SA, David Kennedy, believes this is an overbearing response for a range of entertainment products which are common in many states and countries.

“This seems to be a clear case of law enforcement overreach, conflating unregistered weapons with battery powered toys enjoyed by many responsible citizens. A more balanced approach could stipulate that new gel blasters be designed so they appear visibly different to actual firearms, rather than outlawing them entirely. The majority shouldn’t be criminalised due to a small number who may have used them irresponsibly. Nobody with experience of real guns would confuse a toy with a real weapon.”

The Pirate Party considers this regulation to be overreach which is driven by fearmongering and a small number of bad actors who have misbehaved in public. We support the right of all Australians to enjoy the sports of gel balling as well as related activities such as airsoft and paintball in a manner that is safe and fun.

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On July 31st, the Australian Competition and Consume Commission (ACCC) under instructions from the Australian Government released draft legislation to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and online digital platforms, specifically Google and Facebook.[1] Pirate Party Australia finds little to support in this legislation, and much of concern.

This code has provoked outcry from business advocates, but also those two platforms themselves with Facebook claiming publishers would be able to “charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits”[2] and Google claiming “The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business”[3] and it is an “unfair arbitration process that ignores the real-world value Google provides to news publishers and opens up to enormous and unreasonable demands.”[4] There is are elements of hyperbole and truth in these claims, and Google is correct in noting that only large businesses with a turnover of at least $150,000 would be able eligible to participate in this arbitration.[4]

Two years ago, we supported digital right activists as European Pirates[5] and digital platforms[6] stood side by side to oppose the European Union’s “link tax” which would see a draconian copyright regime be imposed on hyperlinks and undermine the fundamental building blocks of the open web. The Australian Pirate Party also considers the use of article snippets to be “fair use” for all, a concept we and numerous economists have argued for strongly but continues to be blocked by the Liberal National Party and Australian Labor Party.

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Several days ago, the Australian Government’s ‘COVIDSafe’ contact-tracing app was released.

Two main questions arise: will it work, and is it trustworthy? The Government has stated that at least 40% of the population will need to use it for it to be effective, and Oxford experts suggest that number is 60% [1], so these questions are closely linked.

“One reason why people might choose not to install the app is a deficit of trust,” said Alex Jago, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “Unfortunately, the Government has a long history of trading away privacy and information security. Asking people to self-surveil on top of that is a step too far for many.”

Examples of how the Government has consistently acted against privacy are plentiful [2]. Metadata retention (2015) and the “Assistance and Access” Act (2018) are simply two of the more objectionable.

“In the past fortnight, there were some particularly farcical moments when several MPs announced they would not be using the app, citing privacy concerns,” continued Alex. “Given past voting records, we can only hope this represents a permanent change of heart.”

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This was not the way to welcome the new year…

The bushfire crisis has put a spotlight on how the Coalition Government has tried to portray their diversionary heel-dragging as strategic action. It has exposed their hypocrisies in foreign and domestic policy, and shown how barren and self-serving their whole approach to governance has been and continues to be.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously waved around a lump of coal in Parliament, and former Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership when an anti-climate-change faction within the Liberal Party flexed its muscles.

Longstanding advice from the CSIRO has been ignored. [1] Ross Garnaut’s report has been ignored. [2] Recent attempts at communication by retired fire chiefs warning of the danger were also ignored. [3] Yet Prime Minister Morrison did find the time to talk to about 20 people in order to develop his religious freedom bill.

It all speaks to a Federal Government which has no credibility in engaging with the very real threats to Australia.

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