With fresh moves afoot to remove the words insult and offend from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act[1], the Pirate Party calls upon Parliament to get serious about supporting free speech.

“Pirate Party Australia is well aware of the risks around state censorship of opinions,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We fought the Internet censorship laws of the Rudd Government and we opposed the Gillard Government’s attempt to extend section 18C in ways that would have banned causing offence on the grounds of religion and political opinion.”

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Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks have for many years generated some of the largest profits in Australian corporate history[1]. During this time repeated scandals have emerged across a range of services and financial institutions, and the evidence is clear: something is systemically wrong.

Investment fraud, refusal to pay out genuine insurance claims, alleged Ponzi schemes and ASIC investigations into the rigging of inter-bank lending rates are among the many scandals[2][3][4][5]. In addition, the Australian Federal Police has failed to promptly investigate what appear to be blatant breaches of UN sanctions for the purposes of future monetary gain[6].

These scandals are unacceptable to all Australians and institutional corruption is at risk of taking hold. A Royal Commission is needed to rid the financial and banking sectors of unethical behaviour before it leads to a major crisis.

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The Government, law enforcement and intelligence organisations have repeatedly insisted that Australians have nothing to fear from data retention — they just want to collect “metadata” and not the content of communications. This is a disingenuous attempt at reassurance — “metadata” is data, pure and simple, as one German politician demonstrated.

The website[1], provided by Zeit Online, provides an interactive playback of six months of metadata Malte Spitz accessed from his telecommunications company from 2009, showing his near exact location, fully replayable.

“Across a six month period German politician Malte Spitz was able to use the data retained by his telco to track his movements around Europe. It was able to show how simply carrying a mobile phone with you reveals where you are at nearly all times. This is the sort of mass surveillance system the Australian Government is proposing,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“The information they want retained reveals everything about the communication except the content — if you strip away the doublespeak it is data. This information is far from innocuous. It reveals locations, times and interactions. It can be used to create a picture of where everyone has been and who everyone has communicated with, and very precisely. If you sent a text message to your partner before boarding a plane and called them when you arrived they would be able determine what mode of transport you took based on the time and location differences between those interactions.

“No case has been made that justifies the expansion of law enforcement powers to include data retention. All examples used to jusify the introduction of data retention have been based on successes under the current system, disproving the necessity of creating a surveillance state in which even plaintiffs in civil cases such as copyright infringement will be able to access this data.”

The recently proposed data retention legislation will also have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with the stored data capable of identifying links between journalists and their sources. The Pirate Party strongly encourages journalists to speak out against the legislation which will put them and their sources at increased risk of prosecution.

“If you publish stories revealing corruption or abuse of powers, law enforcement and intelligence personnel will be able to access, without a warrant, details of who you are communicating with and where you and they were at the time. The risk of being caught will mean less people speaking up and providing information to journalists. Stories that are in the public interest simply won’t be written.

“This is an unmitigated attack on freedom of the press. No one will be safe from the prying eyes of the surveillance state,” Mr Molloy concluded.

[1] http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention

In response to the Senate’s passing of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 last Thursday, the Pirate Party has updated its policies to specifically oppose the Bill and support its repeal in the likely case where the lower house also approves it in the coming days[1].

The Bill makes major amendments to the ASIO Act, giving ASIO the ability to access, modify, copy and delete information on computers. ASIO may also be able to apply for a computer access warrant broad enough to cover every device on the Internet at once. Other amendments will introduce tough sentences for journalists and whistleblowers who report or disclose sensitive information, even if it is in the public interest.

The legislation also grants blanket immunity from prosecution for many illegal acts undertaken as necessary under a “special intelligence operation”, effectively granting ASIO unprecedented powers without the necessary checks and balances required by a legitimate liberal democracy.

Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “Labor has farcically waved through some of the most onerous legislation of the last decade with little more than a rubber stamp, as the Liberal Party whips up yet another fear-based storm of ‘national unity’ with insufficient evidential basis. This legislation criminalises journalism and whistleblowing, regardless of the public interest, while effectively granting ASIO agents the power to do anything they please.

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Australians have just suffered an enormous blow to their freedoms with the Senate passing legislation massively expanding ASIO’s surveillance powers and ramping up penalties for journalists and whistleblowers who report on or expose unlawful intelligence gathering operations. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (No 1) gives ASIO the ability to obtain a single warrant that could permit access to any device connected to the Internet, as well as the power to add, remove, modify and copy any data on those devices[1].

The Pirate Party is apalled that the Bill passed the Senate last night. The Bill gives vast new powers to spy agencies, attacks journalism and is a bigger threat to Australian democracy than any terrorist organisation. These are unprecedent surveillance powers, but are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Pirate Party’s Deputy President Simon Frew commented: “Parliament has just created what could be the broadest, most open-ended warrant system ever conceived. Our ‘representatives’ have deliberately avoided defining key terms, such as ‘computer’ and ‘network’, and refused to restrict the number of devices that could be accessed, which leaves us with a warrant that potentially covers the entire Internet. ASIO operatives will be permitted to access third party computers they think might help investigations, and they will be able to modify the contents without the owner’s knowledge. We simply can’t take our privacy for granted anymore.

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