As part of its latest assault on the right of Australian Citizens to privately access a free and open Internet, the Online Safety Bill 2021 was recently passed by both houses of government.

This lengthy Bill grants extraordinarily broad powers to a so-called “E-Safety Commissioner”, with no statutory limits, in a short-sighted attempt to improve the safety of Australians online. Their rulings are not subject to appeal, and purport to extend across the entire world, regardless of jurisdiction or international borders. They grant the Commissioner near-unlimited power to censor the Internet, and compel assistance from all individuals, internet service providers, hosting services, social media platforms and communications services to facilitate investigations, without any regard for the security of these services or the privacy rights of individuals.

To make matters worse, the Bill is in no way limited to the more laudable objectives of preventing distribution of material that is harmful in its creation or violates users’ privacy (such as child pornography or non-consensual sharing of private intimate video), and instead seeks to apply sweeping restrictions to the entire internet. The Commissioner is empowered to censor or restrict access to any kind of adult content, prevent ordinary people from sharing videos of violent confrontations, intervene in online verbal disputes between school children or Australian adults, construct mandatory industry standards without parliamentary oversight, and indeed “do anything incidental to or conducive to” any of their other goals… all at their sole discretion.

While child pornography and similarly abhorrent material have no place in civilised society, these matters should be handled by Police under judicial oversight and limitation, not by an unaccountable and despotic government-appointed bureaucrat. These laws do not create a “safe” internet for anybody but the government. They harm activists, they harm whistleblowers, they harm sex workers, they harm civilian journalists, they harm free speech, they harm privacy, they harm security, and they harm every single Australian who uses the internet. But for Labour, the Coalition, and the new E-Safety Commissioner, it seems the ends truly do justify the means.

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This Friday 24th September at 6pm AEST, Pirate Party Australia is going live on to answer questions on civil rights, digital liberties, and the steady descent of Australia into spying, surveillance capitalism and authoritarianism. Speaking will be three of our candidates from the 2019 Federal Election: Brandon Selic (Queensland), John August (New South Wales) and Tania Briese (Victoria) who between them draw on diverse experiences in law, community, family care, education, health, and of course technology.

We’ll be creating the thread at about 30 minutes beforehand for all your questions then answering questions for the following three hours until 9pm AEST. Feel free to ask about the 2019 election campaign, the 2021 election campaign, the recent Identify and Disrupt Bill (which makes it legal to impersonate/add/delete data without a judicial warrant), the recent changes to party electoral registration (designed to disqualify minor opposition parties), the recent changes crackdowns on whistleblowers and journalists or anything!

Edit: now on the 24th!

“This latest bill has bypassed recommendations about oversight, and also stands in the Dark Shadow of past Government abuse. While they talk about the ‘Dark Web’, it’s amazing how ‘Dark’ they themselves have become.” says Pirate Party Australia Treasurer, John August.

The legislation creates “Disruption Warrants” which can be authorised by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, under control of the Attorney General – a ministerial position. Our politicians have just granted themselves the power to hack, change or delete data on any computer or network they like. This sidesteps independent court authorisation, which is supposed to prevent corruption and targeting of political opponents.

“Most recently, the NSW Government’s Fixated Persons Unit, originally founded to prevent terrorism, was used by Deputy Premier John Barilaro as part of a personal political vendetta against public figure ‘Friendly Jordies’. On the one hand it’s NSW not Federal legislation. On the other, it all fits together in an all too familiar pattern, of which this legislation is but one more part”.

Pirate Party Australia vows to repeal the law if elected, and supports any movement to do so.

A petition to repeal the Identify and Disrupt Bill is here:

Pirate Party Australia has signed an open letter [1] with other parties, opposing the Coalition’s Party Registration Integrity Bill. The bill introduces new restrictions around party names and triples the registration threshold to 1500 members.

“This Bill is a blatantly anti-competitive attempt to wipe smaller parties off the ballot paper,” said Alex Jago, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “Firstly, there’s the name-squatting. The Liberals are full of conservatives, and the Nationals only try to represent about a quarter of the population. If they can’t live up to their own names, then they shouldn’t complain and change the rules shortly before the election.”

The registration threshold change also has other implications than just ballot access.

“The membership threshold increase is directly aimed at cutting down the ballot, but it does so indirectly and with unfortunate side effects,” Mr Jago continued. “Party registration is about more things than ballot access; there’s financial disclosure implications too. A high threshold harms transparency.”

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Pirate Party Australia declares the government response to be a combination of naive optimism, wishful thinking and false economy.

“Both the Commonwealth and State Governments have made a complete hash of it, be it around quarantine, the vaccination rollout, choices around lockdown or a festering bureaucracy,” said John August, Pirate Party Australia Treasurer.

The responses taken by both State and Federal governments of Australia have been either mismatched, unpredictable or otherwise missing entirely, whether regarding lockdowns, financial support, business restrictions, or vaccine rollouts. This has been partly due to inaction from the federal government, or politically motivated action on the part of state and federal goverments. Pirate Party Australia is developing a unified approach to Covid management which takes into account the latest scientific advice and best practices in public health which will be announced in the coming weeks.

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