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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“Since his arrest and imprisonment by UK authorities, we have seen the US Government take the draconian action of compiling charges which would result in the imprisonment of Assange for 175 years [1], an assessment by a UN body seeing Assange as the victim of concerted abuse involving 4 democratic nation states over numerous years [2], and a misleading statement being issued by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) over accusations of its failure to protect a citizen [3]”, said John August, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia.

Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Professor of International Law, University of Glasgow, speaks to the effect that Julian Assange’s situation has had on his mental health, with his comments that “in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.” He further comments that: “In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.” [2]

Along with two medical specialists, Professor Melzer visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh high security prison in early May, concluding: “The evidence is overwhelming and clear. Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” Further, he comments: “I fear if that pressure is not alleviated soon it might escalate in terms of the psychological consequences – and I think that’s what we’re now seeing.” Commenting on Australian assistance for Assange, Mr. Melzer said: “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.” [4]

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Pirate Party Australia endorses 4WD Queensland’s push for harmonisation of motor vehicle modification throughout Australia.

The Pirate Party has long had the view that Government and its regulations should enable the community, rather than limit them. We are particularly concerned about the growth of needless and contradictory laws and regulations, something that grows all too readily as both political parties lazily ignore festering problems while aggressively pursuing issues on their respective ideological agendas.

We see the conflict over vehicle modification as a prime example, one which the 4WD Club of Queensland has drawn attention to, harnessing the support of motoring groups all over Australia.

Individuals who are enthusiastic about cars should have the freedom to modify their vehicles so long as they take personal responsibility and do not put others at risk. However, the inconsistent regulations between different states cannot be seen to manage this tension, rather just implement needless layers of contradiction. We therefore endorse the requests of 4WD Queensland:

  • Amend the federal Motor Vehicle Standards Act to allow “Mutual Recognition” of all individual state engineering, approved certifiers and certification schemes, to be recognised and accepted by all state registration authorities;
  • Establish a National Vehicle Modification and Certification Program for in-service registered passenger vehicles as recommended, to be implemented federally and in parallel with ADRs; and
  • Ensure industry and community engagement is a key basis for the Vehicle Modification Framework.

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Australians have witnessed a shocking erosion in their civil liberties over the last 17 years. The Labor and Liberal parties, working together, have imposed additional restrictions on civil liberties every year since 2001. These have included:

  • Internet censorship and web blocking, with the list of websites rapidly expanding.
  • Criminal penalties for investigative journalists who view documents which government agencies wish to conceal.
  • Laws forcing ISPs to collect metadata for warrantless access by authorities. After promising tight controls, the law has created an open slather, with Australians’ internet histories now being trawled more than 1,000 times a day by dozens of agencies not mentioned in the original law[1].
  • New powers to monitor private communications, retrospective warrants, higher penalties for whistleblowing, extra powers to cover up scandals such as the East Timor bugging, and many more besides.

One of the worst of these laws came along at the end of 2018, when the major parties colluded to rush through the new Assistance and Access Bill.

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Earlier this week, the Copyright Amendment Act 2018 passed both houses of Parliament with members from the Liberals, Nationals, Labor and Greens all speaking out in support. Despite attempts by lobby groups to push the bill through without consultation, a two week period was given for the public to offer submissions. Pirate Party Australia joined with Electronic Frontiers Australia, Australian Digital Alliance, Google, Internet Association of Australia, Digital Industry Group, Communications Alliance and Dr. Matthew Rimmer to criticise this bill. Together we represented a wide cross-section of tech sector and civil society bodies.

We raised multiple critical concerns with the bill, including an expansionary terminology and critical lack of judicial oversight, which will lead to insidious degrees of government-endorsed censorship in Australia by private corporations. Our previous press release covering this amendment can be found here[1] and the full text of our inquiry submission here[2].

We are particularly disappointed by the position taken by the Federal Greens who, while criticising the site blocking provisions, joined with elected members of the Australian Labor Party and Coalition to support passage of the bill. We have consistently endorsed the position of former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam with his support for fair use copyright reform and in opposing creeping surveillance. We hope his resignation does not represent a reversal of the Green’s pro-technology policies.

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