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Official Party Document
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Declaration of platform and principles

Pirate Parties have been founded all over the world with a shared purpose: to protect civil and digital liberties and create a more inclusive and creative culture. We seek to build a vibrant digital society in Australia, underpinned by freedom of culture and speech, personal privacy, institutional transparency, creativity and enterprise.


The following platform presents a detailed blueprint of reforms which implement these principles. The reforms include:

  • Greater protection for speech, privacy, and personal sovereignty;
  • An end to the encroachment of stifling intellectual and state monopolies and creation of a freer and more participatory culture;
  • Educational reforms with a focus on developing creativity and life skills;
  • State systems which embody principles of secularism and non-discrimination;
  • Improved government transparency and a re-casting of state institutions: we seek a state which supports and enables, rather than one which controls and constrains;
  • A simpler tax code and basic income guarantee which removes disincentives from the poor and increases the rewards for work, enterprise and efficiency;
  • Greater transparency and respect for human rights in our international engagement;
  • Investment in digital connectivity, community-based clean energy generation, and a strong national science plan - the critical components of an innovative 21st century economy.

Our policies focus on opening up space for creative civil society rather than expanding the state: consequently, the financial cost of our reforms is minimal and wholly offset by savings encompassed within the policies themselves.

As part of an international movement, we seek not only to reform national laws, but to reform perceptions and effect worldwide change. We seek to bring about change democratically, through activism, lobbying and parliamentary elections.

Civil and digital liberties

Freedom of speech

The greatest reformers, scientists and philosophers in history started out as heretics. Challenges to dogma and consensus built the enlightenment and created a world in which ideas could be attacked in place of people. Speech is the cornerstone of the enlightenment and the safeguard for all other liberties, protecting not just the right to speak, but the right to hear and judge the ideas of others. Free speech underpins our ability to think, create, innovate and progress.

Pirate Party Australia does not believe that regulating opinions is a legitimate function of the state. Advocates of censorship make a fundamental error in assuming that hateful speech is a force which only censorship can defeat. History shows the reverse to be true: racism has lost power and become socially unacceptable in the freest societies, where ideas can be most easily expressed—and refuted. Racism and other forms of hate face certain defeat the battle of ideas, but only if this battle is allowed to happen.

Anything which prevents the expression of bad ideas prevents the process by which we educate ourselves out of them. Banning words or arguments that offend particular groups does not improve social harmony; rather, it encourages everyone to take offence and pursue adversarial responses. Censorship systems invariably spread once they have been introduced: in Australia, governments have sought to expand existing censorship laws to restrict criticism of religion and political opinion[1][2][3][4][5][6], and successfully extended counter-terrorism speech laws to gag whistleblowers reporting in the public interest. Once the right of governments to regulate speech is accepted, any and all minorities may be targeted merely as a result of shifts in public opinion or political whim. In this way, censorship endangers the crucial minority rights and protections on which a healthy democracy depends.

The implications of censorship also spread beyond Western countries. When bans on offensive dialogue are imposed in the West, it helps oppressive regimes elsewhere to justify much harsher crackdowns on activism and dissent. The mere existence of censorship laws thus serves the interests of abusive power all around the world. We do not believe that oppression can be reduced by the use of a blunt instrument which has played a part in every form of state oppression throughout history. The failure of states such as the Wiemar Republic—which operated under a morass of hate speech laws—illustrate the deep risks of pushing hateful speech underground instead of airing and exposing it in debate.

Pirate Party opposes digital censorship for the same reasons it opposes traditional censorship. We will seek to repeal all existing architecture for internet censorship—including the patchwork “Refused Classification” content designation,[7] as well as Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, which has been used by officials to block access to around 250,000 legitimate websites to date.[8][9][10] The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. A far simpler option is to avoid inflicting damage in the first place.

Pirate Party Australia supports laws against direct threats and attempts to incite physical harm. However, we seek to bring an end to state censorship of opinions.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Enhance protections for freedom of speech

  • Legislate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into law.
  • Reform classification and classification review boards.
    • Implement a co-regulatory classification model where industry classifies their own content and Government works with industry to determine classification ratings.
      • This system would be akin to European PEGI model or American ESRB model of voluntary classification for media.
      • Restrict unclassified content for sale to adults only.
      • Ensure classification guidelines are published, in accordance with the principle that a classification scheme should be used for consumer awareness and not censorship.
    • Abolish the Refused Classification (RC) rating from the classification system.
      • Content that is illegal under the law would continue to be disallowed for sale, distribution or presentation.
    • Change the role of the Classification Board to be an advisory and review role.
  • Ensure the government and its representatives provide vigorous defence of free speech in international forums and negotiations.
  • Offer a referendum for a bill of rights focused on individual liberties including speech and assembly (see Bill of Rights policy).

Remove counter-productive restrictions on freedom of speech

  • Repeal sections of the Border Force Act which allow for prosecution of whistleblowers who report abuses in detention centres.
  • Repeal the anti-sedition clauses in schedule 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 (Cth).
  • Abolish residual blasphemy laws.
  • Repeal state laws which grant governments the unilateral power to restrict freedom of assembly for specific organisations.
  • Repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), ensuring that pre-existing common law protections are sufficient to manage all cases of intimidation and harassment.
  • Repeal the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Terrorist Material) Act 2007 (Cth).
  • Repeal the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Act (No 1) 2001 (Cth).
  • Repeal censorship and web-blocking clauses from the National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 2014 (Cth).
  • Repeal internet censorship clauses from the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999 (Cth).
  • Repeal content prohibition clauses from the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Act 2007 (Cth).
  • Repeal section 313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth).
  • Ensure no criminal offence applies for linking on the Internet.

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Privacy is an essential underpinning of human dignity. It encompasses not just physical privacy, but the freedom to control your cultural presence, and manage the information and identity that surrounds you. The fundamental balance of power between citizens and their government is altered when states or their representatives have the power to abolish privacy. We need to resist a world in which every action, everything said, and every act of creativity and exploration is recorded. A free and trusting society cannot exist without the protection of a person's private life.[11][12]

Those arguing against a right to privacy because they have "nothing to hide" don't understand the fundamental nature of rights. Nobody needs to justify why they need a right; the burden of proof falls solely on those seeking to infringe it. An individual can forfeit their own rights, but they cannot forfeit the rights of others.

The snooper's honeypot

Metadata retention laws force ISPs to collect a vast database of information on their customers. This includes records of all emails sent and received, websites visited, locational information from phones, and much more. Data is stored for two years, allowing immense amounts of detail on the private lives of individuals to be perused by the state without any judicial oversight. This is a honeypot not just for officials, but for hackers and criminals. Mass surveillance does not prevent terrorism or aid in combating it.[13][14] But it does create a terrible precedent for state intrusion into every corner of private life and civil society. EU courts have thrown out similar schemes due to their gross incompatibility with basic rights; that this hasn't happened here is testimony to the inadequacy of Australian privacy laws.

Threats to privacy are not merely domestic. Australians are also subject to an array of secret, warrantless monitoring conducted from overseas, and the results are routinely shared with Australian authorities. Overseas monitoring gathers data on emails, chats, photographs, documents and website addresses visited by Australian citizens.[15][16][17] The use of overseas channels to gather data allows even the small domestic protections Australians have to be bypassed.

Nor are threats to privacy merely digital. In the last few years body scanners have been rolled out at airports, changes to the Census have allowed data to be matched to individuals, and the Government has rolled out new capability to link together CCTV cameras to track Australians wherever they go. The future direction of attacks on privacy can only be guessed at. Given the scale and variety of attacks on privacy, ad-hoc overturning of laws is not a complete answer.

Australia needs a comprehensively higher standard of legal protection for privacy. Such a standard should include tougher legislative requirements on organisations which retain data, and improved options for individuals seeking to protect their personal privacy. Pirate Party Australia also proposes a new privacy tort to curb future averse changes to the law and prevent misuse of private information.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Remove immediate threats to privacy

  • End warrantless monitoring of internet use among the general public.
    • Oppose and repeal legal mechanisms enacted to create records of Internet use among the general public.
      • Records obtained through such schemes to be securely deleted.
    • Repeal the Cybercrime Act 2001 (Cth).
    • Conduct an independent review of the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979 (Cth) to ensure digital liberties are properly protected.
    • Ban any future collection of phone or internet metadata without a warrant.
    • Cease information sharing with overseas agencies who collect private data on Australians without meeting Australian protections and laws.
    • Re-focus anti-terrorism practice on alternative methods including informants and targeted infiltration.
  • Ensure individuals have a legally protected right to control data collection on devices they own.
    • Control should cover duration data is retained for, encryption and sending of data, and when data is deleted.
  • Ensure no penalties apply to individuals who refuse to provide passwords or assist in decrypting information (in line with existing legal practices regarding self-incrimination).
  • Repeal the National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 2014 (Cth).
  • Repeal the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Act 2011 (Cth).

Raise the floor for privacy protection in Australia

  • Enact higher privacy standards for entities holding private data.
    • Ensure entities complete Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) encompassing binding data security safeguards.
    • Require government agencies and private organisations to report data breaches.
    • Subject substance testing in the workplace to mandatory PIAs with requirement for consultation with affected persons and assessment of whatever risks the testing is intended to address.
      • Provide affected persons with explicit information on purpose of the tests, procedures to be employed, and use of information.
  • Enact additional protection for individual privacy in the public sphere.
    • Institute recommendations from the Australian Privacy Foundation on providing a right to recourse following an invasion of privacy.[18]
    • Subject publication of private data in the media to a public interest threshold, ensuring no restrictions apply where reporting is consensual or relevant to performance of public office, corporate or civil society, credibility of public statements, illegal, corrupt or anti-social behaviour, or a significant event.
      • Apply complaints mechanisms and legal sanctions where the public interest threshold is not met.
    • Ensure the office of the Privacy Commissioner is subject to periodic performance and function reviews by a member of the judiciary.
      • Provide a legal right for members of the public to appeal Privacy Commissioner decisions.
    • Institute tighter controls and accountability covering use of visual surveillance.
      • Require organisations conducting surveillance to state the purpose of surveillance and identify recipients of surveillance information, with mandatory periodic destruction of surveillance material.
      • Require judicial oversight of undisclosed surveillance in public or private places.
    • Establish expert panel to review the adequacy of laws and legal protections applying to the collection, use and storage of biometric data.
    • Remove body scanners from Australian airports.
  • Implement the Australian Privacy Foundation recommendations[19] to create a single tort covering both intrusion into seclusion and misuse of private information.[20]
    • Ensure tort is subject to a public interest test and is actionable only by natural persons.[21]
    • Ensure the tort is prescriptive in defining high- and low-water marks for examples or classes of acts that are or aren't covered, in order to reduce potential conflict between freedom of speech and privacy.[22]
      • Discretion in interpreting objectives of the tort would otherwise be left to courts.
    • Allow action by aggrieved parties, their family or estate, or by relevant commissions for up to a year from the point of discovery, with remedies to include damages, apologies and injunctions.

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As a general rule, legal systems should always err on the side of civil liberty and the presumption of innocence. Legal systems represent an important check on state power and a means to protect the rights of citizens, but their effectiveness depends heavily on having the right underlying laws and safeguards.

Unfortunately, recent changes to a range of laws are falling short of this ideal. The latest wave of rushed and ill-written counter-terror laws (which weaken the burden of proof and loosen thresholds for detention, search or seizure) are only the latest example of an increasingly punitive trend, [23] which the Pirate Party would seek to reverse.

Journalist shield laws are also need of an upgrade: the present lack of protections is commonly regarded as one of the leading threats to accountability and freedom of the press.[24][25] In future, shield laws need to cover not just sources, but the informational content which sources pass on, which is all too easily used to identify them. Sources also need to be protected from public exposure by official inquiries—the ability for inquiries to do this threatens the very forms of journalistic investigation which have so often been essential to inquiries launching in the first place.

We support a legal system which protects freedom and which embodies the secular principle of one law for all, applied to all persons equally. The Pirate Party will always oppose punitive laws and parallel systems which impose differential standards on different groups.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve equality and transparency in the legal system

  • Strengthen shield laws for journalists in the court system.
    • Remove any compulsion for journalists to reveal sources in court, with narrow exceptions where courts determine that a public interest of greater importance than journalistic freedom is served.
    • Extend protections to cover confidentiality of communications and information received from sources.
    • Extend court-related shield laws to also cover public inquiries.
    • Narrow the scope of subpoenas public inquiries can impose to ensure a high standard of relevance applies.
  • Restrict use of suppression orders in criminal trials.
    • Limit suppression orders to protecting national security and the identity of victims, witnesses, or persons under physical threat.
    • Ban any use of suppression orders to prevent discussion of other suppression orders.
  • Ensure no legal standing is extended to alternative arbitration systems, dispute resolution mechanism and other ‘parallel’ legal practices.
  • Pirate Party Australia supports the 1996 National Agreement on Firearms[26].

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Control over the body

The right of self-ownership and the right to live free from pain and physical torment are absolutely fundamental. We believe that all persons have the right to live by their own convictions, but none have the right to force their convictions on others.

Voluntary euthanasia is an important aspect of this principle. Support for voluntary euthanasia is not a statement of any kind on the value of life. It is merely respect for the right of persons to make decisions on these matters for themselves in the light of their individual circumstances. While safeguards are necessary, adults of sound mind and facing terminal illness should have the right to end their lives with dignity and peace. Bans on voluntary euthanasia create a legacy of suffering and a shattering loss of dignity and autonomy.

Pirate Party Australia supports reproductive rights. A pro-choice position is also not a commentary on the value of life: rather, it is recognition that individuals are better placed than governments to weigh up complex questions in light of their own circumstances and values.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Enshrine freedom over the body in law

  • Enact a law legalising euthanasia and decriminalising assisted suicide subject to:
    • An application process and seven day cooling-off period.
    • A requirement that patients be:
      • Over 18 and mentally competent, and
      • Supported by three doctors, including:
        • A consultant/senior physician in a relevant field of expertise to confirm terminal illness, and
        • A psychiatrist to certify that the patient is not affected by treatable depression.
  • Ensure all persons have full and free access to their personal medical records.
  • Ensure all persons have the right to issue binding health directives to apply in the event of any future mental disability.
  • Extend protections within the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 nationwide, to provide baseline legal abortion services nationwide.
  • Decriminalise sex work and limit police intervention to cases of exploitation and coercion.
  • Adopt the current conventions used in New Zealand for gender identify change, under which a non-binary gender option is available for passports and can be changed with a simple application.[27]

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The institution of marriage pre-dates all religions, nations, and political parties by tens of thousands of years. As marriage is a collective, shared inheritance and part of the social commons, there is no justification for it to be co-opted by any modern religious or political agenda. Control of marriage by political parties or religious groups is an appropriation from history and from the public, and those claiming a right to control and define marriage have no such right in truth.

The Marriage Act in current form denies many couples a human right which is taken for granted in mainstream, heterosexual society. The Marriage Amendment Act 2004 made this outcome worse by imposing a declaration, compulsorily recited at all weddings, that marriage in Australia is an exclusionary institution available only to certain types of relationships.[28] In effect, this turns marriage law into a way to force religious principles into state ceremonies, undermining the separation of Church and State.[29] Politicisation of the Marriage Act[30] does not just attack civil liberties.[31] It also reinforces stigmas around minority groups a a time when anxiety is already widespread and suicide attempts among LGBT persons far outstrip the general population.[32]

The only effective way to stop this abuse of rights is to abolish the Marriage Act. Marriage should be protected not by excluding particular individuals, but by excluding the state. This would return marriage to the community, to be interpreted by all in line with their own traditions and values. A Civil Unions Act could then be established in place of the Marriage Act, which would offer equal treatments, rights, and recognition to all couples.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Replace the Marriage Act 1961 with a Civil Unions Act

  • Couples in a union under the Civil Unions Act will be afforded the same rights available under the current Marriage Act.
  • Civil unions will be available to all consenting couples.
    • The legal age of consent for involvement in a Civil Union will be 18 years.
  • The Civil Unions Act will provide a state recognised union with equivalent legal and monetary benefits to those provided currently within the Marriage Act.
  • Couples in legally recognised unions from overseas will be recognised under this Act.
  • The institution of marriage will be removed from the purview of state authority. The right of secular and religious organisations to offer ceremonies in adherence with their own beliefs would not be infringed.
    • No legal basis will be provided for any attempt to force any organisation to provide marriage services where such an act would be at odds with organisational values.
  • Unions not involving consenting arrangements between adults will remain banned.

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Digital access

The internet has always been grassroots, participatory, and open. For that reason alone, it has proven to be a huge thorn in the side of traditional hierarchical power structures.[33][34][35][36] Unsurprisingly, this is leading to push-back: corporate and government entities have been trying for years to increase control over the Internet through a range of measures including censorship, reduction of access, treaties to reduce the rights of Internet users, and ever-broader surveillance and monitoring powers.[37]

Net neutrality is the best defence against much of this. Established by the founders and developers of the internet, net neutrality is the rule which obliges gatekeepers—whether corporate or governmental—to treat all online traffic equally. Net neutrality prevents gatekeepers from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down content based on the source, destination or the owner. It guarantees that even the smallest entrepreneurs have the same access standards as established firms, and it keeps the internet open, innovative, uncontrolled, and free.[38] Net neutrality is not merely a safeguard for the digital economy and culture, but a shield protecting the basic rights of internet users.

Pirate Party Australia will work against inappropriate attempts by gatekeepers to impose censorship, data blocking, and prioritisation. We support the preservation of a fast, open internet underpinned by clear net neutrality principles.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Provide universal access to a fast, neutral Internet

  • Institute a common carriage agreement and legal protection for Net Neutrality, and ban the practice of screening, or prioritising traffic based on packet sources or destinations, unless
    • The default package offered to the user of an ISP contains no such screening or prioritising; and
    • The user can opt-in to a package that will prioritise certain types of traffic by protocol or destination.
  • Allow exceptions in the case of a court order.
  • Allow generic prioritisation of traffic based on protocol types defined by the IETF.

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An Australian Bill of Rights

The Pirate Party will sponsor a referendum to introduce a Bill of Rights as a way to protect basic liberties.

Australia is one of the few remaining western democracies whose citizens and residents lack any significant, constitutionally declared rights. This lack of protection creates an imbalance of power between individuals and the state, and exposes privacy, free speech and other basic rights to perpetual whittling. A bill of rights can restore balance and provide unambiguous checks on the creeping intrusion of the state into private life.

We propose a referendum to alter the Australian Constitution and include a bill of rights, codifying a basic set of human rights and freedoms.[39] The Pirate Party proposal incorporates the most fundamental and essential elements of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[40] the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[41] and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[42]

Protecting rights and freedoms

The following rights and freedoms should only be construed as applying to natural persons as opposed to corporations or other non-natural entities. None of the following rights and freedoms should be construed as enabling the violation of other rights or freedoms. Where conflicting rights or freedoms are found to occur, the resolution should be based on the greater overall good.

The individual is the ultimate minority, and these rights are designed to protect the private lives and rights of individuals. Broader rights (which are often assigned on the basis of belonging to an identity group) are less prominent, as these potentially impose subjectivity, conflict with other rights, and drive burdensome litigation. Rights and freedoms not mentioned here may be granted through other laws and, where not covered by law, are left to the people.

Rights and freedoms should be considered to apply collectively (thus, various combinations of rights exclude practices such as slavery).

There would be no means to sell, trade or otherwise contractually sign away these rights.

Life and Death

  • The right not to have your life taken from you.
    • Any application of the death penalty would become unconstitutional.
  • The right to end your own life should you explicitly, in right-mind and without coercion, choose to do so.
    • This would allow euthanasia, provided that the conditions listed above are legally confirmed.
  • The right to control your body and health, including the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Thought and Belief

  • Freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
    • Includes freedom from compulsion to adhere to another's beliefs, and protection against imposition of such beliefs through law.

Communication and Expression

  • Freedom of speech, communication and the right to express your thoughts or beliefs.
    • This applies to all mediums of communication but does not guarantee that the medium will be provided, merely that access may not be removed by the state.
      • This specifically stops laws such as blocking of internet access for copyright infringement.
    • This right does not include a right to be heard, or impose a duty on anyone to listen.
    • This applies regardless of the purpose of communication.
    • The right to express an opinion will be protected without exception.
    • There is no right to not be offended by the free expression of the thoughts or beliefs of others.
    • Exclusions:
      • Direct attempts to bring about the use of force against another person.
      • Intentional, false statements of fact (slander, libel, false advertising).
      • Direct threats.

Fair Legal Process

  • Habeas corpus - the right for a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court.
  • Right to trial by a jury of peers for criminal proceedings.
  • Right to legal representation.
    • Provision of lawyer for defence.
    • Self-defence.
  • Right to not incriminate yourself.
  • Freedom from retroactive legislation.
    • Protection will apply to anyone found guilty of acts that were not crimes when committed.
  • Right to freely access and copy all laws and public judicial proceedings.
  • No prison for breach of contract.


  • Privacy for homes, property and effects
    • No illegal search & seizure.
    • Covers any invasion of privacy not authorized by warrant issued on probable cause.
  • Privacy of Communication.
    • Excludes communication in open spaces with general public access or public forums.
      • Exceptions from exclusion:
        • Targeted recording of communications without warrant issued on probable cause
        • Dragnet, state-sponsored recording of communication, which allows after-the-fact targeting of any individual
    • Public officials, in performance of official, or purportedly official, duties, may be recorded without constraint.
    • This protection will apply independently of communications medium.

Liberty, Movement, Assembly and Association

  • The right to personal liberty.
  • Protection against arrest or detainment without cause or due process.
    • On detention, the right to be given written evidence of detention, including officers involved and reasons for detention.
  • Freedom of movement.
  • Protection against forcible constraint of movement without cause or due process.
  • Freedom to peacefully assemble in public or private.
  • Freedom to associate with others.

Political Participation

  • Right to participate in civil and political life.
    • Includes right of any adult citizen to run for any government office.
    • Includes right of any adult citizen to join political parties or activist groups.
    • Includes right of any adult citizen to vote.
    • Is not nullified by civil or criminal status.
    • This should not be construed as taking away any existing right to civil or political participation.
  • The government shall not pass laws intended to limit participation.[43][44]


  • The right to own property and not have it unlawfully taken from you.
  • This right only extends to physical property where acquisition removes it from possession of another person.
  • Intellectual and other property rights schemes would remain an issue for the legislature.


  • The right for all permanent residents and adult citizens to be treated equally by the state.
    • Guarantees freedom from discrimination by government, based on any arbitrary or generalised condition, including gender, age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion (or lack thereof), social sub-cultural and political affiliation.

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Culture and creative works


Copyright laws are designed to encourage creative output by providing creators with a limited monopoly over the use and distribution of their work. Once these rights expire, works enter the public domain to be used and built upon by others. Copyright is granted to creators in return for the eventual benefit society receives by having these works created and released into the public domain.

However, 'copyright' is now a term that has many negative connotations. Although introduced over three hundred years ago to protect authors from unscrupulous publishers,[45] it has come to be associated with control over creators and consumers, stifling their rights and freedoms. Australia's Copyright Act is lengthy and unwieldy as a result of many amendments since its introduction in 1968, and includes rights such as moral rights and broadcasting rights that are not best described as copyrights.

The need for replacement legislation was discussed in the 1990s in response to rapid technological developments. In 1995 the Copyright Law Review Committee made recommendations to simplify the Copyright Act, but these were never implemented.[46] Instead, amendments since 1995 have continued to increase the complexity of Australian copyright law, making it increasingly inaccessible and unintelligible to creators, consumers, investors and distributors.[47]

The recommendations of the 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into IT Pricing[48] and Australian Law Reform Commission's 2014 report on Copyright and the Digital Economy[49] have not been implemented. Implementing these recommendations would significantly improve the rights of consumers in regard to local and overseas content, and give creators greater flexibility to build on previous works.

Extensions to the duration are the result of extensive lobbying and have not been based on sound economic evidence.[50] As Australia imports more copyright materials than it exports, extensions to our copyright term inevitably impose net costs on our economy. Over the past three hundred years the duration of copyright has been extended from 14 years to the life of author plus a further 70 years — an increase of nearly one thousand percent based on Australia's current life expectancy. However, different types of works are currently given different protection measures and durations, making the legislation all the more difficult to comprehend by those it aims to protect. Evidence indicates a term of 15 years provides the best economic results.[51]

It is time to repeal the Copyright Act and replace it with brand new legislation designed from the ground up to be accessible to creators and consumers, to be relevant and robust in the digital environment, and to provide economic benefits to Australia as a whole. This can be achieved by simplifying the legislation, improving the rights of creators and consumers, and making sure that the law reflects the economic nature of creative rights.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Repeal the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and replace it with a new Creative Works Act

  • Institute a creative right that lasts 15 years from date of publication. This will provide adequate economic protection while ensuring the growth of a vibrant public domain.
  • Provide that rights in unpublished works will terminate 15 years after the death of the creator, to allow sufficient time and incentive for the works to be published.
  • Abolish the distinction between 'works' and 'subject matter other than works'.
  • Institute a uniform duration for creative rights regardless of the type of work, and all existing types of work will continue to be protected.
  • Restrict creative rights to commercial uses of a work. This will maximise the dissemination of culture and encourage derivative works, as well as protect privacy and freedom of speech.
  • Allow creative rights held by individuals to be transferable upon their death, but the duration of the rights will not exceed 15 years from publication.
  • Allow creative rights held by corporate entities to be bought and sold, or transferred on liquidation, but the duration of the rights will not exceed 15 years from publication.
  • Provide that creative rights will always remain with the creator except where the work has been created under a contract that specifies alternative arrangements.
  • Permit exclusive licences for a maximum duration of five years to allow creators to periodically renegotiate the terms to be more favourable to them.
  • Afford no protection for materials produced by or as a function of government, as they belong to the public.
  • Protect software under separate legislation, similar to the way circuit layouts are currently protected.
  • Provide that programming made available online by radio stations will be considered a broadcast for licensing purposes.

Define commercial use

  • Provide that a use will be commercial if it is primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.
  • Provide that use by companies, businesses and individuals in the course of trade or commerce will always be commercial use.
  • Provide that use for private entertainment will always be non-commercial.

Improve the rights of the public

  • Explicitly protect the right of panorama so that rights in works on public display are not infringed by capturing them in another work (such as a photograph, drawing or audio recording).
  • Replace the current limited free-use fair dealing exceptions with an open-ended fair use exception, including a non-exclusive list of illustrative uses such as research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, reporting news, professional advice, quotation, format and time shifting, and incidental or technical use.
  • Replace statutory licences with exemptions for libraries, archives, public education and access for people with disabilities.
  • Require Open Access provisions for all publicly-financed scientific and academic research, including the resulting works and raw data which must be stored in an open and searchable format.
  • Abolish the current parallel importation restrictions.

Prevent the abuse of creative rights and improve consumer rights

  • Introduce criminal penalties for abusing 'takedown' procedures.
  • Require potential applicants in proceedings under the Creative Rights Act to demonstrate a prima facie case and seek leave of the Court to initiate proceedings.
  • Make distributors liable for technological protection measures that interfere with the exercise of free-use exceptions and exemptions.
  • Require products sold with technological protection measures to be accompanied by information on the nature of the restrictions and any tracking or data collection imposed.
  • Give consumers a statutory right to return for refund any products that include technological protection measures within 30 days of their receipt.
  • Exclude penalties for circumventing technological protection measures and geoblocking.
  • Provide educational materials to Australian consumers and businesses as to how to circumvent geoblocking.
  • Amend the Australian Consumer Law so that contracts or terms of service that attempt to enforce geoblocking are considered void.
  • Introduce an explicit first sale doctrine (right of resale) which will apply to both physical and digital sales.
  • Investigate options to restrict vendors' abilities to lock digital content into particular ecosystems.

Reform moral rights

  • Protect the moral right of integrity by licensing arrangements rather than legislation. This will also protect freedom of speech.
  • Prohibit users of creative works from implying any form of endorsement by the creator without specific and explicit consent.
  • Continue to protect the moral rights to have a work correctly attributed and to not be falsely attributed as the creator of a work.
  • Provide that moral rights will last indefinitely, and grant open standing to allow the public to enforce them after the author's death.
  • Provide that moral rights will apply to both commercial and non-commercial uses.

Create an Orphan Works Office

  • Create an Orphan Works Office with the power to declare whether a work has been abandoned by its creator ('orphaned').
  • Provide that individuals, groups and corporations will be able to apply to the Orphan Works Office to have a work declared as orphaned.
  • Require creators or rights holders to demonstrate that the work continues to be published in a manner accessible in Australia.
  • Allow the Orphan Works Office to declare a work as being orphaned if it can be demonstrated that the work is no longer published in a manner accessible in Australia.
  • Provide that a work enters the public domain if the Orphan Works Office declares it has been orphaned.
  • Provide that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will hear appeals relating to decisions of the Orphan Works Office.
  • Require the Orphan Works Office keep a public register of orphan works.

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Culture and media

Culture is at the heart of human identity. From the cave paintings to the poetry that was once copied and sent to soldiers in the trenches, culture has always been something shared - a social glue and a bond between individuals and their societies. Cultural sharing is innate to human nature and learning. It is an important driver of human creativity and progress.

In modern times, technology has changed the way in which culture was produced and experienced [52]. The rise of mass-production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries opened the way for new forms of distribution, but also created a means for the owners of industrial mass production to control and restrict access. Intellectual property laws emerged which treated culture as something to be restricted, monetised and made artificially scarce. As technology progressed, however, the ability to mass produce in the digital realm has shifted cultural modes back to their historical norms [53], opening the way to a new era of grass roots cultural production.

Attempts to re-impose the forms of control and artificial scarcity which governed culture in the 20th century will fail[54], simply because the technological “moment in time” which enabled such a model to exist has now passed. We believe the time has come to undo the harm done to our cultural commons[55][56] as a result of 20th century copyright policy. However, this does create a serious question: where culture is freely available, how will artists and creators be paid and supported?

Pirate Party Australia has several answers to this. We will support a basic income guarantee which provides universal support to artists. We also propose a new wave of investment to create new cultural hubs for the community. These new hubs will expand the role currently played by libraries [57] and provide free facilities for creation of music and art [58]. They will also be places where legal obstacles such as obsolete Digital Rights Management (which hampers archivists who seek to engage in digital archiving)[59] can be overturned. Additionally, we will seek to establish a new fund to sponsor artists and invest in the creation of films, literature and visual art. And finally, Pirate Party Australia will seek to provide smaller live music and performance venues with tax breaks to protect and enshrine them.

Pirate Party Australia is also a firm supporter of public broadcasting. We oppose all attempts to sabotage the independence and broadcasting standards of the ABC. The ABC is one of Australia's few highly trusted institutions [60] and its capacity to reach a diverse national audience with cultural programming make it especially important to Australia's artistic and cultural communities. A complete subordination of Australia's media landscape to commercial interests and the political agendas of their owners should be resisted by anyone who supports independent media and the growth of Australian culture.

We believe open, participatory culture and investment in our artists is the future for Australia.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Develop a network of facilities to support development of art and culture

  • Provide $500 million from existing Federal investment funding to support expanded library facilities.
    • Funding will be allocated by an independent board charged with assessing grant applications and ensuring all proposals are openly accessible to the public.
    • Applications will be assessed on local area population, community need and outcomes of consultation, and quality and innovativeness of proposals.
    • Proposals will be required to maintain and respect traditional library functions.
    • Projects may include development of maker spaces, sound booths, expanded premises, content digitisation and online availability and other cultural and community benefits.
  • Provide additional legal protections to libraries to enhance their cultural value.
    • Allow free use of patented material and full availability of copyrighted material under a Creative Commons Attribution license within physical and digital library spaces.
    • Allow library users to utilise these freedoms subject to a mandate to make materials thus created available under a creative commons license within the library's physical and digital spaces.
    • Maximise public library efficiency by ensuring that digital works become instantly available in any branch (e.g. using filesharing technologies) [61]
  • Ensure libraries maintain, store and make available public records in a standardised format.
    • Ensure libraries provide storage and computation resources to process open data public records. This might include cloud resources, hosting services, and other services to ensure useful access to such content, by any library user.
  • Mandate that any DRM protected product for sale in Australia has an obligation to hand over keys or other mechanisms required to access it in its totality, after either termination of copyright or termination of sale.
    • The disclosure will be to the National Archives until termination of copyright, and held in confidence until it enters the public domain.

Expand funding and venues for artists

  • Repeal 'lockout laws' and allow venues and pubs more freedom to determine their own opening hours.
  • Provide $1 billion from existing infrastructure funding to sponsor Creative Commons licensed artistic endeavour.
    • Funds will be separated into streams to invest in independent films, games, visual art, and literature.
  • Expand current tax exemptions applying to “cultural organisations”.
    • Extend the “Music” category to cover facilities essential to live music, including small-capacity live music and performance venues.
    • Extend the “Literature” category to cover book and cultural exchanges which provide low-cost literary and cultural material to the general public.
  • Provide a central online location for artists containing information for exhibiting, performing, and displaying art, as well as free hosting for exhibiting and displaying digital and digitised art.

Secure Australia's public broadcasting

  • Protect public broadcasters and their boards from political interference.
  • Maintain base funding to domestic public broadcasters at 2012 levels (with adjustment for inflation).

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Education and innovation

Schools and early education

Education is a powerful determinant of well-being. It is a source of wealth, a provider of life skills, an enabler of participation, and a core component of civil society. The 2000 Dakar World Education Conference noted that all young people have the right to an education that includes “learning to know, to do, to live together and to be".[62]

Early childhood education

Pirate Party Australia supports trials in Australia of the childcare cooperative system used successfully overseas. [63] A co-op system will provide a means for willing parents to combine resources and provide low-cost or free childcare by taking turns as carers and volunteers. It also provides social opportunities to new families and their children, and reduces demand pressure on the existing childcare system.

School education

Global comparisons suggest that the world's best educational system is in Finland.[64][65] Unlike Australia, where funding is shredded between public and private systems, Finland focuses on a single system of locally controlled public schools. Teachers have great autonomy, and educators have freedom to mix and combine classes, test when and how they wish, teach in different ways to accommodate different learning styles, and bring in additional support and resources as needed. Unsurprisingly, this kind of autonomy encourages many more highly qualified and bright people into the teaching profession, and solves many issues of teacher quality experienced in other countries.

Australia is one of the few countries to divide its funding between public and private systems. This is the wrong path in the long term. The diversion of public funding to private and religious schools does not promote equity; it merely leads to scarce resources being allocated where they aren't needed. It doesn't promote diversity: diversity is actually reduced when children are segregated along religious and socio-economic lines. It doesn't promote choice: the shift in funding towards private schools has left entire leaving entire postcodes lacking any comprehensive public schooling.[66] It doesn't improve value for money: a huge increase in private funding has seen relatively small shifts in student numbers,[67] and where students have shifted, the largest impact has been to concentrate poorer students into the increasingly under-funded public system.[68][69] And it clearly hasn't improved educational standards: basic science teaching is regularly undermined in religious schools[70][71] and overall educational outcomes for Australian children have been falling relentlessly in recent years, especially among the most disadvantaged[72][73] .

A shift towards global best practice need not cost any more money. However, we believe a future education system should have the following features:

  • Funding should be reserved for schools which are secular and free, and available to every child.
  • Schools should be locally controlled. Standardised testing should be optional, teachers should be more empowered, and curriculums should be leaner, with more time available for school-determined content.
  • Additional funding should be available to address disadvantage and improve educational diversity. Schools in poor areas should receive additional resources, and all schools should be able to 'bulk bill' activities in which qualified experts are engaged to teach in areas of interest chosen by students and parents.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve provision of community based childcare

  • Provide certification processes and a one-stop information service for the setup of childcare cooperatives.

Foster well-funded, dynamic and secular public schools

  • Reallocate federal education funding:
    • Progressively reallocate funding towards free and secular schools, with allowance for other schools to transfer or sell land and assets into the public system.
    • Abolish the school chaplains program.
    • Ensure sufficient funding is available to implement Gonski recommendations on additional support for poor and disadvantaged schools.
  • Change school accountability frameworks:
    • Abolish existing paperwork accountability systems and provide schools with control over finances including management of bank accounts and purchases.
    • Support the establishment of principal networks to encourage the spread of effective systems.
    • Allow students 16 and over to transfer to TAFE and have per-student funding follow them.
    • Trial a bulk billing scheme for extracurricular activities including tutoring from outside experts in areas determined by students and parents.
  • Provide more support to teachers:
    • Ensure trainee teachers receive a minimum of 12 weeks supported classroom time.
    • Allow ongoing salary progression for teachers with more than 10 years of experience.
  • Include a solid foundation of life skills and personal development within the National Curriculum:
    • Grades 1-4 to cover behaviour towards others, people skills, and exploration of science and critical thinking;
    • Grades 5-6 to develop earlier material and additionally cover sex education, conflict resolution, and ethics;
    • Grades 7-8 to develop earlier material and additionally cover accidents and emergency response, civics and voting, budgeting, basic IT skills, careers and starting a business.
    • Limit compulsory subjects to life skills, maths, science and English.
    • Abolish Special Religious Instruction in public schools and limit religious study to comparative religion in the context of history, culture and literature.
  • Endorse the right of schools to access Safe Schools education programmes.[74]
    • Extend the Safe Schools programme by bringing in Safe Schools representatives to engage with recurring bullying problems and the individual students involved.

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Tertiary education is crucial for our shift towards a more knowledge-based economy. While student numbers continue to rise, growing evidence exists of a troubling deterioration in standards and academic morale in universities. Approximately half of academics have been assessed to be at risk of psychological illness due to insecurity and overwork,[75] while two thirds believe academic freedom is being curtailed.[76] Higher education has suffered from efforts by successive governments to force it into a top-down, corporatist structure. This is an inappropriate form for an education system and a driver of stultification and surveillance. The drive towards pseudo-measurement of educational outcomes has also imposed unprecedented administrative costs, with administrators and managers now outnumbering academics.

Much of this change is demonstrably counter-productive. The narrow emphasis on vocational education is creating graduates unfit for many jobs - employers have raised issues with serious deficits in team work, creative thought and communication.[77] Administrative burdens imposed in the name of quality assurance are driving down quality by drawing resources out of teaching and research. Attempts to quantify educational outputs obscure more than they reveal. And the lowering of standards to accommodate overseas students is reducing Australia’s attractiveness as an international student destination.[78]

Genuine transparency means accountability to the general public, not to a corporate structure. We believe that publicly funded academic research should be made freely available to the public and no longer locked up behind publisher paywalls. We also believe in enhancing the quality of academic work by following the advice of academics themselves, who urgently seek higher per-student funding and greater autonomy. We will also encourage the current shift towards digital education, which is proving to be a crucial aid for the poor, for people in remote locations, and for carers and people with disabilities.

Education should be seen as a pillar of civil society rather than a money making commodity, and campuses should be encouraged to play a greater role in the community. Passion, curiosity and freedom to speak and question are key curbs to unhindered power, and a successful university system should embody those traits.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support academic autonomy in tertiary institutions

  • Impose benchmarks to guarantee the use of public funds for academic salaries, teaching material and research.
  • Expand full-time academic positions targeting a maximum student-teacher ratio of 20:1.
    • Guarantee study leave, research time, and fieldwork in academic contracts.
  • Restore academic control over course and research funding, course design & outcomes, unit guides, marking, workload allocation, hiring, and teaching choices.
  • Defund administrative functions and organisations associated with monitoring, surveillance, government reviews and data collection.
    • Abolish standardising and rigid templates.
    • Abolish code of conduct restrictions on academic speech.
    • Limit the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency to an advisory role.

Increase educational resourcing and outputs

  • Provide $4 billion per year to properly resource higher education research and increase grant acceptance (see Science plan policy for details)
    • $500 million per year should be set aside to support a 25 per cent increase in base per-student funding.
    • Ensure a portion of this funding is directed to restoring access and equity measures for poorer students, as well as provision of counselling and childcare services.
    • Replace the lifetime FEE-HELP limit with a maximum loan cap, offset by repayments.
  • Institute Open Access provisions for publicly funded academic, peer-reviewed, journal articles produced within universities.
    • Make all articles freely available to the public without paywalls or publisher restrictions.
  • Promote increased use of campuses for community seminars, live events and public debates.
  • Increase provision of free online courses, and encourage greater use of online infrastructure to reduce course costs and improve budget sustainability.
  • Encourage greater course-driven interaction between students and businesses or community groups.
  • Apply full whistle-blower protections to users of Unileaks and similar outlets.

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A streamlined patent system

Patents grant an individual or a business a temporary monopoly over the expression of an idea. Patents are a powerful legal instrument which grant their holder a right to stop others from using a product or an idea for up to 20 years.

Patents are meant to encourage innovation. However, as time passes they are increasingly doing the opposite, becoming a means for old, legacy businesses to prevent competition and stifle innovative rivals through endless legal action. With uncountable millions of patents now lodged, real inventors face a minefield of potential obstacles in bringing any new product to market. Serious reform is needed to being the patent system back to its core purpose.

General reforms

The original twenty-year patent duration was set down at a time when ideas and products took years to spread,[79] and most research suggests a significantly briefer term is better in a world where products can be built and marketed to millions in a space of weeks.[80] As patents are an intervention by the state in the free market, their existence can only be justified where there is a clear benefit to the public interest. Accordingly, no avenues should exist for the use patents to block publicly funded research. Additionally, since patents were introduced to support development of products, any legal defence of a patent should require proof on the part of the litigant that the patent in question is being actively used.

Pirate Party Australia also believes the patent system needs to include accommodations to allow independent development of the same invention.

Software patents

The software industry is uniquely dynamic, and patent durations on software should be shorter than those applying to other patent types. Pirate Party Australia would abolish functional claiming (which patents the end result of software) as it removes the ability of the free market to create newer and better approaches.[81][82][83][84] We also believe a larger fee should apply for software patents in order to fund additional scrutiny and a raising of the threshold for obviousness and prior art.

Genes and organisms

“Products of nature” were not patentable under the original terms of patent law. However, the scope of patent law has crept, and patents on human genes are now granted on the grounds that extraction of material from its natural environment is akin to having “invented” it.[85][86]This is a nonsensical legal artifice which, if applied in other fields, would lead to patents on coal, cotton, and wood.

It is also a particularly harmful form of corporate welfare. Gene patents are effectively a state-granted right to lock away fundamental information about our bodies. Gene patents hinder research by forcing scientists to negotiate among dozens of gene patent holders, who bear no obligation to contribute to research themselves.[87][88] Gene patents also lead to huge costs being imposed on sick and dying patients for simple tests and treatments.[89]

Patents on living and genetic material represent a net loss for society, and should no longer be recognised.

Pharmaceutical patents

Patents on drugs are justified as a necessary incentive for medical research. In practice, however, patents are an incredibly poor mechanism for this. Most of the money extracted by patent rents does not fund research at all: instead, it is directed towards marketing and corporate expenses. To the extent that patents do fund research, the incentive is to develop temporary fixes which can be sold over and over rather than real cures, which can be sold only once.[90][91] Only around two per cent of new active ingredients and applications devised by drug companies are considered to make real medical progress.[92][93]

For these dubious benefits, drug patents impose a massive cost. Monopoly power allows firms to charge huge prices for drugs whose actual production cost is minuscule. More than $10 billion is spent each year on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS),[94] most of which goes into meeting patent rents so that drugs are affordable. High drug prices also deny lifesaving medicines to the world's poor.[95][96][97]

If drug patents were no longer recognised, monopolies on drugs would cease and domestic drug prices would fall to cents in the dollar. Market competition would force domestic firms to compete on quality, and future aid could include exports of critical drugs to poor countries. Our public health system would be freed from a huge cost burden, and current spending on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme could be redirected to sponsor genuine drug research and bring about a renaissance for science in Australia.

Private drug research should still be encouraged, but not through a patent system. Instead, funding should be made available to trial a ‘bounty’ system, under which rewards are offered for the creation of drugs which serve an identified public good. Bounties would be paid out on cures, not temporary fixes, and drugs on which a bounty has been paid would immediately enter the public domain. Ultimately, the best path forward would be for willing countries to sign a new global biomedical treaty to enact a global bounty system, which could direct hundreds of billions of dollars a year into critical medical research.[98]

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Reduce patent quantity, and increase quality

  • Reduce patent duration to 10 years.
  • Require patent holders to demonstrate active use of a patent as a pre-condition for any legal enforcement of exclusivity.
  • Apply legal protection to all non-commercial use of patented material (any subsequent commercial use would remain actionable).
  • Apply legal protection to open source products.
  • Apply legal protection for infringing items which are developed independently and without knowledge of existing patents.

Reform software patents

  • Apply a higher patent continuity fee.
    • Fees will fund impartial, professional reviewers and consultants (experienced in the relevant areas) to review software patents, with the goal of blocking patents that are obvious to someone experienced in area, not novel or having prior-art.
  • Set the length of patents for inventions primarily embodied in software to 5 years.
  • Ensure only specific implementations are protected, with functional claiming and outcomes disallowed.
  • Require software patents to contain sufficient information for someone experienced in software development to be able to implement the invention.

Abolish patents on genes and living organisms

  • Retain patents on inventions based on a gene (which neither require nor confer rights to the gene itself).

Abolish patents on pharmaceutical drugs

  • Techniques for creating pharmaceutical drugs will remain patentable.
  • All patents on chemicals will be placed in the public domain, and manufacturers will be encouraged to produce generics.
  • Redirect $5 billion from current spending on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme:
    • $1 billion to ensure drug prices are low across the board, and no drug is made more expensive under new arrangements.
    • $2 billion each year to directly fund drug research through the CSIRO and tertiary institutions.
    • $2 billion each year to trial a "bounty system" to reward firms who create drugs which serve an identified public benefit.
      • The bounty would be paid annually, over a ten-year period of time.
      • Incentives would be offered to both first- and second-movers: where a new invention is based upon an earlier invention, rewards would be split even if the initial drug is superseded.
      • The amount of the reward for a particular drug would be determined by an expert panel and based on public health outcomes such as number of beneficiaries, level of therapeutic benefit, and capacity to address priority healthcare needs.
      • Drugs subject to a bounty will be placed in the public domain.
  • Begin negotiations on a global medical R&D treaty, open to any nation willing to commit appropriate funds to support R&D.

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A national Science Plan

Science created modern society. Through the scientific method, humanity has harnessed the power of natural forces, revolutionised our social order, and gained incredible knowledge of the universe in which we live. Economic growth is largely the result of improvements in science and technology, and research has long shown that public investment in science pays off many times over.[99]

It's time Australia put real muscle behind it's scientific endeavour and adopted a serious National Science Plan[100][101]. Australia is the only OECD nation to lack one, and researchers in this country are constrained by under-funding, poor collaboration among research bodies, and erratic grant periods. A Science Plan will address these issues systemically and provide a pathway for a broadening of our research profile into areas such as space research, which offer potentially enormous benefits.[102]

A Science Plan would help to address poor collaboration between business and higher education.[103] Overseas experience suggests voucher programs represent one way to achieve this. Voucher programs allow small businesses purchase services from education and research bodies, which generates a dual benefit of raising overall research funding and encouraging long-term relationship building between sectors.[104] Collaboration can also be supported by allowing researchers at government bodies to personally own patents on their research. In places such as Germany, this has enabled entrepreneurial researchers to spin out and start new businesses, adding vibrancy to the private sector and breaking down barriers between private and public spheres. [105] [106]

A science plan would also provide a pathway to addressing chronic underfunding. As noted in the patents policy, a huge amount of money is currently wasted on paying the cost of drug patents. Freeing up this funding will provide billions each year—properly used, this could revolutionise science teaching and research in Australia.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Develop an Australian Science Plan

  • Improve co-ordination among science bodies.
    • Establish an Innovation Board comprising researchers, government and industry representatives to draw together existing programs, develop research and innovation priorities and monitor Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) progress.
  • Improve public understanding of science.
    • Provide an online portal for use by schools and the general public, with permanent streaming and free download of publicly owned science and science education programs.
    • Require every primary school to employ at least one teacher with specialised STEM skills.
  • Improve conditions for researchers.
    • Align disparate grant processes and link grant periods to requirements of the research.
    • Recommence the International Science Linkages program. [107]
    • Provide an online portal to facilitate researcher access to alternative funding sources, including crowdfunding.
    • Allow researchers working within government bodies to own patents on their research.
  • Re-purpose existing funding to directly support scientific research.
    • Provide $4 billion in additional annual funding to the Australian Research Council and other research bodies to support academic work in science and social science.
    • Provide $1 billion in additional annual funding to the CSIRO to support fundamental research.
    • Provide $4 billion in additional annual funding to support pharmaceutical research (see patent policy).
    • Engage Australian Academy of Science to develop a long-term plan for funding and operation of Australian research infrastructure facilities.
    • Establish a National Institute for Space Science to co-ordinate infrastructure and projects and seek global capital.
    • Provide $100 million for one-off development of space infrastructure recommended in the NCSS Decadal Plan.

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Government transparency

A transparent government is one which is open, communicative, and accountable. Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant and the greatest counter to corruption and rent-seeking. Openness about decisions taken on the public's behalf is also the best way to build public trust. The failure to embody these principles is a large part of the reason public trust has broken down so spectacularly in recent years.

Principles around transparency find practical application in legislative requirements such as Freedom of Information (FoI) laws[108][109] and whistleblower protections. To ensure openness, we believe FOI legislation should be enshrined and enhanced. Exemptions from FOI, which are currently wide and arbitrary, need to be narrower, time limited, and justified by a higher threshold of due cause. A similar strengthening should also apply to whistleblower protections given repeated instances of harsh and inappropriate punishment and deterrence targeted at whistleblowers over the past 10 years.[110]

More transparency also needs to apply with regard to the movement of money in our public institutions. It should no longer be acceptable to shut down public scrutiny of public spending by invoking commercial-in-confidence clauses.[111] Public oversight should never be blocked where spending of public money is concerned. Political donations should also be subject to greater scrutiny so that the public can see who is funding and lobbying their elected representatives.

The state should also be subject to a stronger principle of universality. The state is funded by all citizens, and consequently any services provided by the state and its authorised service providers need to be subject to a firm principle of non-discrimination.

Institutional transparency is one of the easiest ways Australia can improve government function and recover public trust. Pirate Party Australia will push hard for positive change that improves Australia's governance.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve transparency and credibility in systems of governance

  • Codify all federal legislation into an administrative code, civil code, commercial code, criminal code and revenue code, and any specialist codes as necessary.
  • Make all legislation accessible and searchable online with the ability to compare selected revisions side-by-side to see the differences.
  • Make all bills accessible and searchable online with the ability to view proposed amendments in the context of the legislation being amended.
  • Establish a Federal anti-corruption authority with powers modeled on the NSW ICAC.
  • Strengthen the operation and transparency protections afforded by FoI laws.
    • Remove blanket organisational exemptions and evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis.
    • Remove relevance as a criteria for exemption.
    • Exemptions to be subject to time limits, with extensions to be justified.
    • Documents to be unclassified by default.
    • Additional resources to be provided to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to ensure a robust and speedy FoI review and appeals process.
    • Maintain and expand data availability though and support an Open Data Act mandating that data released under an FoI request is comprehensive and provided in a re-usable format.
  • Provide new protections for whistleblowers.
    • Ensure provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Bill 2012 operate in full.
    • Adopt additional measures to build in further protection to all parties:
      • Indemnity provision to third parties involved in the disclosure of information.
      • An intermediary system for anonymous disclosures, including a mechanism allowing whistleblowers to remain in regular, anonymous contact with investigative authorities.
      • Allowances for expedited data preservation orders, including a provision allowing such orders to take effect before a disclosure is made in cases where evidence is at risk of being destroyed.
      • Provisions to allow for disclosure of irrelevant information, where such information forms part of a larger document whose disclosure in complete form is necessary to preserve the quality of evidence.
  • All contracts and deals with suppliers and other businesses to be placed in the public domain.
  • Insert a non-discrimination clause applying to all publically funded bodies, universities, and bodies paid to act on behalf of the state.
    • Providers will have no right to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, race or sexual alignment in the delivery of service provision, access to resources, or any use of public or educational premises and facilities.
  • Provide an official method for Australians to directly petition the federal government for a change in law or other government policy.
    • All levels of government should recognise and facilitate e-petitions.
    • Petitions reaching a predetermined quota to carry attendant obligations upon governments including mandated parliamentary discussion, meetings with petitioners and formal recognition of issues raised.

Improve transparency and conduct in Australian politics

  • Increase oversight of processes around political donations.
    • Mandatory disclosure of all political gifts and donations provided to elected representatives which have a value over $1000.
      • Donations to be capped at $50 per person for public events.
      • Foreign donations to be banned.
    • Electoral Commissions to collate information into a single searchable database available online and at Electoral Commission offices for ready access to the general public.
      • The database will be updated at three-month intervals, with requirements for donors to report donations within 6 weeks.
    • Prohibit donation splitting between branches of parties to prevent concealment of donations through division into smaller amounts.
    • Create a lobbyists register with mandatory coverage of all lobbyists and full records of all meetings between lobbyists and legislators or government officials.

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Citizens' initiatives

Australians lack any direct way to enact, amend, repeal or vote for or against legislation which affects their lives. A solution to this is to allow citizens to directly petition the Commonwealth Parliament for referendums.

Citizens' initiatives allow citizens to directly participate in legislative decisions. Mechanisms of this kind have been implemented in various forms and to varying degrees in Austria,[112] at the supranational level in the European Union,[113] Finland,[114] all German states,[115] Hungary,[116] Italy,[117] Latvia,[118], Lichtenstein,[119] Lithuania,[120] New Zealand,[121] Poland,[122] Portugal,[123] Spain,[124] Switzerland,[125] several states of the United States[126] and Uruguay.[127]

The Pirate Party supports the right of Australians to exercise legislative power in certain circumstances using citizens' initiatives. However, the Pirate Party also recognises that setting a threshold is necessary to prevent abuse of the system by special interest groups.

The Pirate Party therefore supports two levels of initiatives modelled closely on the systems in Latvia, Hungary, Brandenburg and Hamburg,[128] but with adjustments made to accommodate Australia's significant geographic size and low population density. The first level, an agenda initiative, would have a lower threshold and be a binding petition to place an issue on the parliamentary agenda. If Parliament fails to take action, a full-scale initiative with a higher threshold would compel Parliament to hold a binding referendum. This allows legislative development to be guided by parliamentary institutions and procedures and to arrive at considered and enlightened decisions, as well as helping to avoid populism and the disregarding of minority interests.[129] Combining agenda and full-scale initiatives allows Australian citizens to encourage their representatives to take action, while providing a mechanism to challenge parliamentary decisions.

The Pirate Party supports legislation allowing citizens' initiatives as a temporary measure, but ultimately this right should be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support for citizens' initiatives

  • Enact a referendum to insert provisions allowing citizens' initiatives in the Australian Constitution.
    • Initiatives would be divided into two tiers: "agenda initiatives" and "full-scale initiatives."
      • Agenda initiatives would be non-binding mechanisms modelled on the systems in Latvia, Hungary, Brandenburg and Hamburg, which would compel Parliament to consider a particular proposal.[130]
        • Agenda initiatives would have a petition threshold set at 0.2% of the number of enrolled electors at the Federal Election prior to the submission of the petition.
      • Full-scale intitiatives are binding mechanisms to compel the holding of a referendum on a particular proposal.
        • Full-scale intitiatives would have a petition threshold set at 1% of the number of enrolled electors at the Federal Election prior to the submission of the petition.
    • Citizens' initiatives should be permitted for enacting, amending, repealing or otherwise challenging legislation.
  • Specifics relating to citizens' initiatives would be dealt with by legislation.
    • Citizens' initiatives will be obliged to provide reasons for the petition and identify objectionable aims or provisions of the legislation if supporting a repeal.
    • Legislation repealed or rejected as a result of a citizens' initiative (or legislation that is similar) could not be re-enacted without the approval of a referendum unless the objectionable provisions or their effect have been removed.[131]
      • The High Court of Australia will have power to determine whether legislation is the same or similar and whether or not the objectionable aspects remain.
    • To avoid excessive polling, referendums should be held at fixed intervals.[132]
      • Unless there are three or greater successful full-scale initiatives, referendums should be held at the same time as Federal Elections.

Certain decisions to be reserved for Parliament

  • The decision to go to war should be vested exclusively in the Australian Parliament, not the Executive.
  • Executive power should be removed with regard to international legal instruments such as treaties and trade agreements.
    • The accession to and ratification of such instruments will be decided by Parliament.

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Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and prohibition of racial discrimination

Although European colonisation of our country began in 1788, the Australian continent has been the home of indigenous societies and cultures for at least 40,000 years.[133] However, numerous indigenous societies have faced virtual destruction as a consequence of discrimination,[134] paternalism,[135] genocide,[136] as well as the introduction of diseases,[137] substance abuse,[138] slavery[139] and dependency on the state.[140] Families have been broken up,[141] and discrimination in the criminal justice system[142] has inflicted further harm on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their societies. Moves to amend the travesties of the past have been positive. The High Court's decision in the Mabo v Queensland (No 2)[143] overturned the doctrine of terra nullius that was used to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.[144] The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) restored some land rights to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The 2008 apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was symbolic of a nation willing to make amends for the horrors of the past.[145] However, more needs to be done before we can truly have reconciliation in Australia.

Efforts have been made to recognise the rights of indigenous peoples (particularly in relation to land) in places such as the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia and South Africa.[146] The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples draws attention to the recognition of indigenous inhabitants in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland (Denmark), Russia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and the Philippines, in addition to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.[147] These efforts range from recognition by the courts to treaties and constitutional recognition.

The Australian Constitution does not recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the original inhabitants of our country. It was drafted in an era of racial discrimination and the shadow on our constitution is undeniable.[148] In particular Section 25 permits states to discriminate on the basis of race by disqualifying persons of that race from voting, and Section 51(xxvi) permits the Commonwealth Parliament to create laws for "the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws."[149]

It is against this backdrop that the Pirate Party supports the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for a single referendum to repeal the 'race provisions' in the Australian Constitution (Sections 25 and 51(xxvi)), recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the original inhabitants and their languages as the original languages, and to include an explicit prohibition of racial discrimination.[150] The Pirate Party agrees that, although there is still a long way to go, "constitutional recognition would provide a foundation to bring the 2.5 per cent [of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples] and the 97.5 per cent [of non-indigenous Australians] together, in a spirit of equality, recognition and respect, and contribute to a truly reconciled nation for the benefit of all Australians."[151]

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support for the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

  • The Pirate Party supports a referendum as recommended by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples[152] in order to:
    • Repeal Section 25 and Section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution.
    • Insert a new Section 51A recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and providing the Commonwealth Parliament with the power to make laws in the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
    • Insert a new Section 116A prohibiting racial discrimination.
    • Insert a new Section 127A recognising English as the national language and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as the original Australian languages, a part of our national heritage.

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Economic reform

Merger of tax and welfare systems, and establishment of a basic income

Australia's tax and welfare systems have grown so complicated that they are almost impossible to understand.[153] The tax system now comprises more than 120 different taxes[154], and includes a range of bad incentives which favour property speculation and penalise work and saving.[155] The complexity nullifies any chance at real government transparency; it also forces more than two thirds of taxpayers to file returns through tax agents.[156]

The welfare system also faces problems with complexity. It has grown in ad-hoc fashion to encompass more than 20 separate payments, each with different means tests, sub-payments, administrative arrangements and compliance regimes.[157] Administrative costs for tax and welfare run to over $5 billion annually, and over $80 billion is "churned" (collected as tax and then returned to the same taxpayers as welfare) each year. Recipients leaving welfare for work often face a combination of large benefit cuts and income tax, which can lead to effective losses of more than 70% of earned income.[158] This punishes the drive to be self-sufficient and creates a risk of inter-generational poverty.[159]

Basic income through reverse taxation

Significant reforms are needed to improve transparency and fairness in the system. This need will only become more urgent as automation advances, potentially changing the face of the labour market and putting the system under more strain than ever before.[160] As the challenges of the 21st century unfold, a comprehensively different model of tax and social support will be needed.

We believe it is time to combine the disparate systems of tax and welfare together, unifying them into a single system underpinned by a basic income guarantee. This basic income guarantee would be paid in the form of a negative income tax.

Negative income tax is tax in reverse—money paid by the government to those with low or no taxable income. It provides social support directly through the tax system rather than through a separate welfare system. Pirate Party Australia proposes a tax threshold of $37,500 should be used in conjunction with a tax rate of 37.5%. Under this plan, the first $37,500 of earnings would become tax-free, with a tax rate of 37.5% applied only on earnings above that. However, people earning less than $37,500 will receive 37.5% of the shortfall transferred to them from the government in the form of negative income tax. Thus, persons earning nothing at all are guaranteed a basic income of just over $14,000 (representing 37.5% of the $37,500 by which they fall below the threshold). The following examples show how income is modified under a negative income tax:

Income before tax Tax threshold Gap between income & threshold Tax rate Change in income Income after tax Effective tax rate
$0 $37,500 -$37,500 37.5% +$14,062 $14,062 0%
$27,500 $37,500 -$10,000 37.5% +$3,750 $31,250 0%
$37,500 $37,500 $0 37.5% Nil $37,500 0%
$47,500 $37,500 $10,000 37.5% -$3,750 $43,750 7.9%
$100,000 $37,500 $62,500 37.5% -$23,437 $76,563 23.4%

A basic income system protects against poverty by providing a platform beneath which nobody can fall. This removes the financial dependence which traps people in abusive relationships, and overseas trials show that income guarantees are one of the most effective ways to reduce domestic violence.[161][162][163] A basic income would improve the bargaining power of workers and stabilise low and volatile wages, smoothing the path for those seeking to shift from welfare into work.

There would also be a material reduction in the size and reach of government. Swaths of bureaucracy and welfare 'churn' would be cut. And a fundamental power imbalance between the individual and the state would be corrected, since government would no longer be able to take income from citizens while refusing counter-obligations to citizens whose income collapses.

A basic income guarantee provides a way to clear out poverty traps and bad incentives from our social support systems.

Most importantly, a basic income is a platform for 'positive liberty', granting everyone the freedom to seek education and training, volunteer, create art and culture, or raise children without bureaucratic obstacles and complex payment rules. A basic income is a platform on which 21st century entrepreneurship and creativity can be built.

On the tax side, a higher tax-free threshold will improve progressiveness in the income tax system. It also provides a simple means to replace the current mass of thresholds, offsets and tax breaks, which unduly favour wealthy investors and those who can afford tax accountants. Negative income tax is one of only a few tax and welfare proposals which has near-unified support among economists, demonstrating its merit as a serious economic reform.[164][165]

Balancing revenue

A shift to negative income tax will reduce income tax receipts by around $30 billion per year, with the bulk of benefit flowing to low income earners. Some of this could be made up through a price on carbon emissions (see climate change policy), and a removal of fossil fuel rebates. Revenue could also be supported by abolishing tax breaks on negative gearing and capital gains: these loopholes have created a huge bias towards property speculation and locked a whole generation out of home ownership.[166] The remaining, substantial tax reduction should simply be left intact as a means to support labour and enterprise in Australia.

On the spending front, a negative income tax can replace the bulk of existing welfare and its associated bureaucracy, as well as a range of expensive and underperforming "employment services" whose function can be served in the private market. US cost estimates based on Congressional Budget Office data suggest that a shift to negative income tax requires only a tiny lift in spending[167][168], and Pirate Party calculations suggest the same is true in Australia. Any additional cost is likely to vanish over time as incentives for welfare recipients improve.

Charity and fairness

A few other tweaks would improve the function of our tax and welfare system. All charities should be classified as 'deductible gift recipients' in the future: this will make every charitable donation and activity tax-deductible. At the same time, tax exemptions linked to 'advancement of religion' should be removed, since a modern secular society has no grounds to discriminate between taxpayers on the basis of their beliefs.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Combine tax and welfare into a single, fair system through a negative income tax

  • Set tax rate to 37.5% with a threshold of $37,500 (generating a basic income of $14,062 p/a).[169]
    • Adjust tax thresholds (and basic income) in line with inflation.
    • Time negative income tax payments to supplement regular wage payments, or transfer fortnightly to those with no income.
    • Ensure basic income is available to all persons aged 18 and over, following graduation from school.
  • Ensure 'neutral' and equivalent tax treatment for all forms of income including fringe benefits, share transfers and dividends, earnings through interest, rental or private company income, and inflation-adjusted capital gains.
    • Phase out negative gearing over five years; allow investors to carry forward losses and deduct them from capital gains to reduce tax liability on property and asset sales.
    • Ensure superannuation contributions are tax-free, with withdrawals taxed as normal income (subject to credit where contribution tax was previously paid).
    • Limit tax exemption to charitable donations and items purchased for the purpose of disability support.
  • 'Top up' the basic income in special cases:
    • An additional $6,000 in child support to primary caregivers, with additional per-child payments reduced by 25% for each subsequent child.
    • A top-up to match existing pension levels for aged and disabled persons, veterans, and carers.
    • A top-up to match existing rent assistance for low income earners lacking public housing.
    • Taper out all ‘top-ups’ as income rises, with top-ups removed once income reaches $100,000.
  • Use the basic income to replace existing welfare programs including Newstart, Age Pension, Austudy, Family Tax Benefits parts A and B, School Kids Bonus, Income Support Bonus, Low Income Super Contribution, the Disability Support Pension, and Carer Payments.
  • Use the higher tax threshold to replace existing tax offsets for senior Australians, mature age workers, overseas civilians, entrepreneurs, low income earners, holders of private health insurance, termination payments, zone offsets, notional tax offsets, and tax exemptions for foreign employment income.

Enact changes to broaden and improve tax collection.

  • Cap fuel tax credits at $100,000 per year and abolish aviation fuel concessions, exploration and prospecting deductions.
  • Tax trusts as companies.
  • Restore a carbon price based on the 2012 model (see environment & climate change policy).

Improve citizen and charitable focus in the tax system

  • Provide secure online mechanisms to allow citizens to easily review their financial relationship with government and conduct digital tax transactions.
  • Ensure data and reviews on the function of taxes and transfer systems are made public.
  • Remove ATO powers to impose or enforce confidentiality clauses on taxpayers.
  • Extend 'deductible gift recipient' status to all registered charities.
  • Remove 'advancement of religion' as a charitable activity for the purpose of determining tax exemption.
    • Retain exemptions for non-commercial income earned by religious organisations if the organisation meets any other categories for exemption including provision of charity, education, culture, community service, or health.

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State reforms: housing affordability and the land value tax

A land value tax of 1.5 per cent would raise enough to replace all other state taxes.

Long before the creative commons were fenced off by intellectual property laws, a similar process led to the locking up the physical commons. Events such as the Enclosure laws—under which the nobility of the UK granted itself exclusive control of the nation's land, and drove out the commoners—have been repeated in many forms across many countries, and significantly shaped the world we live in today.

Land value tax is a way a modern economy can both improve its function and compensate those who are priced out of access to the land. A land value tax is best seen a charge for services to a location. All landowners require government regulation and enforcement to protect their exclusive right to landholdings—a land value tax ensures these services are paid for by those who use them.

Making state taxes work

High returns for housing speculators come at a significant cost to others. First home buyers are increasingly excluded from the housing market entirely, or forced into crippling debt. Australia's household debt has grown by $1 trillion over the course of the housing boom[170], and nothing has been bought except property which Australians already owned. High debt costs drain funds away from useful consumption and investment, and constant repayments make it hard to engage in entrepreneurialism and risk-taking. Housing debt locks people into "safe", unfulfilling jobs.

Australians also labour under many harmful, regressive and annoying state taxes. These include taxes on payrolls, which penalise job creation;[171] gambling taxes, which increase state reliance on problem gambling and create harmful policy incentives; insurance taxes, which lead to under-insurance and expose the economy to greater risks, and stamp duties, which discourage mutually beneficial transactions such as the buying and selling of property. State taxes are the biggest culprits in a tax system which imposes deadweight losses of over $20 billion on the economy every year.[172]

The best way to solve both problems at once is a tax switch: a progressive removal of taxes on work and savings, and replacement with a single tax on the value of land. A land value tax is different from other taxes in that it does nothing to discourage work and enterprise: instead, it encourages better use of land.[173] Work, savings and innovation would be rewarded more, while the value of shared natural resources would fund public works. Shifts of this kind have been shown to produce huge benefits for economic growth and job creation[174]. Importantly, improvements to land are not penalised, since the tax levies only on the unimproved value of land. However, land speculation and hoarding would be sharply discouraged, and idle or unused property would be forced into the market. This extra supply will do much to reduce homelessness and bring house prices down, opening the housing market to first home buyers.

Other benefits may also follow. Public transport raises land value, so a land value tax will encourage governments to build it. And as cities contain the vast bulk of land value, the tax burden on regions would fall. This would encourage decentralism and enrich economies and communities outside the cities. And as land tax is already raised locally, a tax switch would allow state governments to remove their revenue collection bureaucracies, sharply reducing their overall size.

Pirate Party Australia believes combined tax and spending across all layers of government should be kept below 25 per cent of GDP. Deficit reduction should be accomplished through economic reform rather than higher taxes, and no reform is more important than the removal of inefficient, investment-stifling and regressive taxes. Pirate Party Australia stands for a vibrant economy built on economic justice and a smaller, smarter government which frees its citizens to truly reach for life and liberty.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Simplify state taxes

  • Abolish payroll tax, insurance taxes, stamp duties on cars and houses, gambling taxes and existing land taxes.
  • Institute a per square-metre land tax based on unimproved land value with coverage extending to owner-occupied housing.
    • Apply a per-meter tax free threshold to exclude low-value land including agriculture.
    • Encourage states to apply progressive rates and different structures to enable 'competitive federalism' and optimal tax builds.
    • Ensure no tax liability applies to land which is preserved in its natural state.
    • Protect income-poor taxpayers by allowing tax payments to be deferred until land is sold or ownership is transferred.

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Distributed digital currencies

Distributed digital currencies such as Bitcoin[175] (also referred to as cryptocurrencies) are an emerging and potentially highly disruptive technology, and are the subject of numerous official inquiries around the world.[176][177][178][179] Existing payment methods carry significant risks - such as the need for consumers to share credit card details - and also impose dead-weight middle-men costs. Digital currencies offer a solution to these issues and a potential diversity of new financial services.

Digital currencies allow the population of a country to avoid potential currency devaluation as a result of fiscal and monetary policy. They offer a mechanism for risk-free online purchases, with transaction fees and middle men removed. Digital currencies also offer much to retail businesses. Existing payment systems are structurally unsuited to online transactions: paying online with a credit/debit card involves divulging card details to a slew of interested parties, with all costs associated with poor practices or fraud falling on the retailers, and ultimately on consumers. Distributed digital currencies correct this issue inherently[180] and eliminate the need to divulge account details, ensuring vendors have access to incoming funds immediately with no risk of fraud.

Pirate Party Australia anticipates a large future for the general distributed currency concept, but to be successful Australia needs to actively engage in its development. Pressure from incumbent financial organisations seeking to restrict competition must be resisted, as self-exclusion will deny Australia potentially enormous benefits.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support the development of new technology businesses

  • Ensure clear guidelines and a suitable regulatory environment are available for businesses.
  • Treat restriction of basic banking services to crypto-currencies businesses as an illegal restriction on trade, excepting where trade poses direct financial risks to the bank.
  • Ensure crypto-currency businesses with control over customer funds are subject to equivalent regulation to banks.
  • Ensure crypto-currency businesses without control over customer funds are not subject to traditional banking regulations, but are encouraged to self regulate.

Change tax regulation to support distributed currencies in the broader community

  • Re-define digital currencies from a commodity to a currency for tax purposes.
  • Count digital currency gains through 'mining' or speculation efforts as capital gains.

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Support for fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure projects

The current copper network is not sufficient to meet the requirements of a growing digital society. A fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure project that connects the majority of Australians to a fibre network, where economically feasible, is fundamental to the creation of a vibrant digital society in Australia.

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Climate change and renewable energy

While the environment is perpetually changing, there is a risk that enormous changes imposed in a very short period of time may have a destabilising effect on our planet's ecology and life support systems. Carbon emissions represent a risk factor in this regard, but also an opportunity. Effective climate change policy should not merely mitigate risk, but accelerate technological change with significant benefits for society at large.

Human activity has increased the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases to levels not seen for many hundreds of thousands of years, and the rise is accelerating.

Global energy markets are approaching a “crossover point”, when prices for on-site production and storage of energy fall below the price of traditional grid power.[181] Technological progress will soon allow consumers to become ‘prosumers’ – energy users capable of independently generating their own power. A 'prosumer' market will be a freer market in which consumers directly compete with utilities.

A few simple changes could bring this future closer. Resources currently allocated to the Emissions Reduction Fund could be re-targeted towards research and technological development. Regulations could be changed to ensure consumers are freer to enter energy markets. Utilities could be deregulated so they can adopt leaner 'probabalistic' power models and offer new services such as trading platforms between distributed energy producers. Underlying it all, carbon pricing should be adopted to directly bring the price 'crossover' closer.

A shift from taxing savings and work to taxing carbon emissions will be economically beneficial in its own right. A fixed and predictable carbon price will provide the certainty which long-term investment requires[182]; it will also create incentives for efficiency and innovation all across the economy. Carbon taxes also ensure that polluters pay. Environmental externalities are a form of privatised profits and socialised losses, and carbon pricing is a way to ensure that coal mining repays some of the costs it imposes on national water reserves, agriculture, and public health.[183][184],[185].[186]

In the longer term, reforms to encourage technology take-up and cleaner energy will pay for themselves. A distributed grid open to 'prosumer' competition will generate cheaper power as wastefully long power lines disappear and communities become more self-sufficient. Successful climate change policy should produce benefits far beyond merely addressing climate change itself.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Enact measures to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030

  • Expand investment in technological improvement and community power.
    • Re-purpose the 'Emissions Reduction Fund' (ERF) to the CSIRO and ARENA to sponsor additional research and development in clean technology and power storage.
      • Ensure technology developed with public funding is made freely available to developing countries.
    • Extend Clean Energy Finance Corporation loans to support community power start-up costs and grid connections.
    • Amend AEMC rules to ensure power purchase agreements, solar services agreements, virtual net metering and other forms of decentralised grids are not hindered.
  • Strengthen existing measures and price signals.
    • Restore a carbon tax with pricing set to the 2014-15 level and price increases fixed at CPI + 5% p/a.
      • Provide free permits to coal-generated power stations only where grid stability is at stake.
    • Apply a price on exported carbon, set to $2 per tonne of exported thermal coal.
      • Revenue will be used to to purchase carbon offsets through the UN clean development mechanism.
    • Provide a final extension in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 70,000 GwH by 2025.
      • Increase the number of renewable certificates offered for generation at peak periods to encourage baseload renewable generation.
      • Include waste-to-energy in RET certificate allocations.
    • Remove waste levy exemptions applying to coal power.
  • Require transparent disclosure of energy ratings for all buildings.
  • Adopt EU 2020 vehicle fuel efficiency standards including the passenger vehicle target of 95g CO2/Km by 2023.
    • Form a panel of government and industry representatives to develop a plan for roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and development of an Australian standard for EV rechargers.[187]
      • Offer assistance to private operators who wish to operate recharging stations through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
      • Create a corporation with joined State and Federal Government ownership to lease recharging sites on public land.

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Land management and ecology

Pirate Party Australia believes we should tread lightly on our planet. Our precious ecology and fauna require careful and holistic management. Cases such as the Murray-Darling system show that ecosystems are too deeply interconnected to be managed in different ways across state borders, and a clear case exists for future environmental approvals to be conducted at the Federal level by a fully independent authority.[188] Holistic management also creates a strong case for developing a new national Biodiversity Matrix, which will provide planners and the general public with a unified information source on our land and ocean ecosystems.

There also need to be practical measures to protect biodiversity on the ground. We will seek to both expand national parks and ensure that groups and communities have more avenues to assist with maintenance and management. We will also seek to re-allocate some existing infrastructure funding for ecological uses. Australia spends tens of billions of dollars every year on infrastructure, covering everything from roads to stadiums. Pirate Party Australia would invest some funds from this budget to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is worth more than $12 billion a year to Australia's economy[189]. Australia also has one of the worst extinction rates of any continent, and we believe some extra money should be directed to a threatened species fund to protect our unique and irreplaceable wildlife.

Farmer's rights

Pirate Party Australia believes the needs of farmers should be prioritised over activities such as coal seam gas (CSG) extraction. CSG extraction is being undertaken from a position of profound ignorance regarding its impacts on rivers, groundwater, and food security. Given the evidence of fugitive emissions leaks and other unforeseen impacts,[190] a moratorium is likely to be necessary until more meaningful evidence is available to demonstrate that extraction can be done safely and without undue impacts.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve land management to protect biodiversity

  • Expand the environmental oversight of the federal government to cover mining approvals, rivers and water areas, and national parks.
    • Provide independent statutory status to areas overseeing environmental approvals.
  • Develop a Biodiversity Matrix to classify nationwide land and ocean ecosystems and species distribution.
    • Information collected will be published, and will inform land use changes, management of threatened species, development approvals, and management of biodiversity issues and national parks.
  • Provide $1 billion in seed funding for a Threatened Species Fund.
    • $750 million to be allocated to endangered species plans and community group projects including sanctuaries and land management initiatives.
    • $250 million to be allocated to long-term research and adaptive management aimed at curbing feral cats and foxes.
  • Provide an additional $500 million each year to improve water quality and catchment management in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Expand and improve national parks.
    • Increase national park thresholds to cover 15% of land in Australia, with a representative sample of at least 80% of regional ecosystems protected in each bio-region.
    • Review national park legislation and remove restrictions on volunteerism and community engagement in improving parks.
    • Amend Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to insert specific requirements for accountability and monitoring of Recovery Plans.
  • Protect agricultural and farming land.
    • Grant landowners rights to refuse exploitation of coal and coal seam gas deposits on land they own.
    • Permanently ban extraction and exploration of coal and coal seam gas around prime farming land, water catchment areas and aquifers.
    • Apply a moratorium on new coal seam mines and additional use of existing mines in metropolitan areas, with periodical reviews to assess evidence and present recommendations on the scientific case for lifting or modifying the moratorium.

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Animal welfare

The Pirate Party is opposed to animal abuse and believes our laws should be informed by scientific research, which demonstrates the capacity of animals to feel emotion and pain.[191] Better public understanding and greater transparency have been crucial to improvements in animal welfare to date, and we believe in the further application of these principles. Accordingly, we support efforts to create an independent statutory authority to conduct research and improve animal welfare outcomes. Such a body will have a significant role to play in addressing deep issues in areas such as live cattle exports, puppy farming, and greyhound racing.

There also need to be serious efforts to address the vast and systemic animal abuse in Australia's factory farms. Pirate Party Australia will do all it can to ensure that food production in Australia is conducted with less cruelty in future. A stronger ability to investigate animal abuse—combined with a general lifting in legislative standards—offer the best chance for a holistic improvement in animal welfare in factory farms and other areas.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Foster improvements in animal welfare

  • Support existing proposals to form an Independent Office of Animal Welfare (IOAW).
    • The IOAW authority will be dedicated to animal welfare issues, with enforcement powers and a mandate to adopt a scientific approach.
    • The authority will have statutory independence to prevent political and commercial interference.
  • Improve legislation applying to animal product industries.
    • Ban the use of sow stalls.
    • Codify a legal requirement for all abattoirs to stun animals prior to slaughter.
    • Provide whistleblower protection for persons who expose animal abuse at factory farms and other facilities.
    • Ensure transparent and clear labeling of all animal based products, with "free range" label permitted only when:
      • Independent audits of sanitary and welfare conditions are allowed.
      • For birds, indoor stocking density is at a maximum level of 28 kg of live birds per sq metre (35 kg for turkeys), with unrestricted access to an outdoor range with maximum of 1500 birds per hectare, no use of growth promoters, no mutilations (beak trimming, toe trimming, de-snooding).
      • For pigs and cattle, unrestricted access to soil and pasture and no use of farrowing crates, sow stalls, feedlots, tail docking, teeth clipping and nose ringing.
  • Ban cosmetics testing on animals
  • Ban 'puppy farming' and unregulated high-volume dog breeding.

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Transparent, efficient health services

Pirate Party Australia believes that ensuring universal access to affordable, high-quality health care is a core responsibility of government. However, with resources tight it is necessary to accomplish this by improving the quality and priorities of existing spending, which already accounts for around 25% of overall federal, state and local government revenues.[192]

Making better health affordable

The trend of rising health expenditure in many countries partly reflects growing demand due to the increasing effectiveness of clinical practice and ever more sophisticated medical research and technology.[193] However, rising costs may also be driven by rent-seeking in an industry which is often far removed from the economic ideal of a free market due to high entry barriers and large information asymmetries.[194] A key role of governments is to enforce effective regulation to protect patients from over-servicing, price-gouging and treatments which lack a solid evidence base. Ideally, the regulatory framework should allow maximum flexibility for medical staff, and avoid undermining the intrinsic, non-monetary motivations of health professionals.

Ideological cost-shifting between public and private sources should not be a priority for health reformers. Rather, the goal should always be to minimise the total public and private cost of achieving desired health outcomes. This can be done partly by removing the private health insurance rebate, which, by most estimates, provides poor value for its $5 billion per year cost. Removal of pharmaceutical patents and their replacement with alternative research incentives will also lower health costs by reducing medicine prices, creating huge savings for hospitals, patients, and consumers.[195]

Health spending could be made more sustainable with a greater focus on preventative practices such as vaccinations and harm prevention. There will also be strong payoffs from efforts to reduce causative factors such as homelessness, drug abuse, and domestic violence.[196]

The fragmented nature of Australia's health system, with responsibilities split between federal and state governments, requires reform in order to reduce perverse incentives to minimise costs within each funding silo instead of minimising the overall cost of treatment. In order to improve accountability and co-ordination, we also advocate financial support for general practitioners to take on the role of designated treatment coordinator[197] for patients, particularly where patients have complex chronic conditions.

Plugging the gaps

Australia's health system faces several old challenges and several new ones.

Pirate Party Australia would seek to maximise the benefits of the NDIS by making items purchased for disability support tax-free. We also believe mental health efforts within the NDIS may need additional direct support. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 45[198], and the fact that mental illness is itself a significant risk factor for physical ill-health means that better resourcing of treatment for the former often pays for itself by savings for the latter. A priority is to improve coordination of services to ensure that recovering patients have stable and appropriate housing, with access to ongoing support. Mental health advocates also stress the potential for better coordination between agencies to improve outcomes and reduce costs.[199]

While most Australians can afford dental treatment and have adequate dental health, severe and chronic dental health issues have become concentrated among some lower income groups, with around one-third of Australians receiving no dental care at all.[200] While some have called for a universal dental scheme, the Australian Dental Association has warned against it on the grounds that thinly rationed coverage across the board will prove unnecessary for the majority and insufficient for those in greatest need. Pirate Party Australia instead supports a model which focuses intensive resources on the poorest and most needy, and thereby achieves better outcomes at less overall cost. Such a dental plan could be easily funded out of savings from removing the Private Health Insurance Rebate.

Australia should also do more to avert the risk of growing resistance to antibiotics.[201] Antibiotics for treating human infections are quite closely regulated in Australia, but better public education would help further reduce the number of unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics. Pirate Party Australia also supports better monitoring of growth promoters in animal feed [202] and antibiotic residues in imported fish and animal products.

Data and IT infrastructure

Pirate Party Australia supports moves by the Federal Government to establish a national system of electronic health records, provided strict privacy safeguards are enforced. Once in place, such a system promises to provide better medical care at a lower cost by avoiding duplication of diagnostic tests and by reducing the incidence of medical errors. The data gathered, once suitably anonymised, will be of great value to researchers for epidemiological and other studies, and free access should be maximised with public funding of the necessary IT infrastructure. At the same time, to avoid an incentive to falsify medical records, the public must be assured that the data gathered cannot be used to discriminate against them, for instance by employers or insurance companies.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Undertake measures which ensure best-value for money in the health system

  • Abolish pharmaceutical patents and substitute a 'bounty' system to support pharmaceutical research (see patents policy).
  • Remove private health insurance rebate and utilise savings (of around $5 billion) to support other policy priorities.
  • Revise health budget guidelines to ensure public subsidies for health services are determined by:
    • The seriousness of the patient's illness or injury,
    • The proven effectiveness of the treatment,
    • The financial capacity of the patient,
    • The wider public benefit (e.g, 'herd immunity' resulting from immunisations),
    • The opportunity cost for the rest of the health system.

Support general systemic improvements in Australia's health system

  • Provide additional $2.5 billion annually to the public health system to manage any increased patient need resulting from lower private health coverage.
    • Base fund allocations on existing funding ratios.
  • Improve privacy safeguards for electronic health records (see civil liberties policy).
  • Conclude development of a national system of electronic health records.
    • Ensure personal files incorporate strong cryptographic protection, and utilise a format easily processed with standard, free software.
  • Trial a new annual payment for GPs to coordinate the care of patients with complex treatment needs.

Undertake new measures to close gaps in health coverage

  • Provide $2 billion per year to fund Australian Dental Association recommendations on improving dental health.
    • Fund direct service provision for those currently lacking access to dental care, including people facing financial disadvantage, people in remote areas, the elderly, children of health card concession holders, and those with special needs.
    • Increase incentives for dental students to accept rural placements by expanding the existing scheme for medical students.
  • Support preventive and promotional health initiatives and integrate dental care into Australia's health plans.
  • Provide $500 million to support initiatives to curb homelessness, including:
    • Direct investment in expanded accommodation services for mentally ill people facing homelessness;
    • Seed funding to extend successful community programs including Common Ground[203] and Journey to Social Inclusion.[204]
  • Establish a national centre to coordinate Australia's response to antibiotic resistance.
  • Improve treatment of transgender and intersex persons.
    • Adopt United Kingdom National Health Service recommendations as a starting point for treatment approach to transgender persons,[205] and specifically WPATH[206] with practice guidelines sourced from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.[207]
    • Extend Medicare to the long-term coverage of hormone replacement therapy, and sexual reassignment surgery where recommended by medical and psychiatric professionals.
    • Prohibit normalising surgery for intersex infants and children unless medically necessary (as determined by the Family Court), pending informed individual consent as an adult.[208]

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Law and order

Prison reform

Reducing the net amount of crime in our country must be a primary long-term goal of our criminal justice system. Although many would argue that has always been the case, Australia's approach to achieving that goal has historically been based on the notion that fear of punishment will stop people from committing crimes. In practice, fear is a poor motivator. Fear cannot direct good behaviour — it can only compete with the other immediate threats in a criminal's life.

Except for the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, we know that most convicted criminals will eventually be released back into the community. Knowing that they might be your neighbour, would you like them to have experienced years of dehumanising and degrading treatment with limited to no possibility of self-improvement, or would you prefer your new neighbour to have been educated, to have acquired social skills, to be integrated with the community, to have gainful employment and to have a purpose in life?

The Pirate Party finds the latter is preferable.

The cost of crime in Australia

Crime costs Australia $36 billion per year, or about 4.1% of our gross domestic product.[209] The total net expenditure on corrective services alone was approximately $3 billion between 2007 and 2008 — $138 for every person in Australia.[210]

Prisoner information

A brief look at basic statistics on Australia's prison population provide an insight into the causes of recidivism — why prisoners are likely to reoffend and return to prison. One-third of all prison entrants have not completed Year 10, over two-thirds report that they have used illicit drugs in the last twelve months, just over a quarter had employment organised to begin within two weeks of release, and nearly half expect to be homeless.[211] Nearly half have been told by a health professional that they have a mental health disorder, and more than a quarter report being on medication for a mental health disorder.[212] The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee reports that half of all children born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Australia as a result of alcoholic mothers will end up in prison.[213] These conditions are a recipe for recidivism, and experience bears this out — the Australian Institute of Criminology reports that about two-thirds of prisoners will have been previously imprisoned.[214]

Meaningless soundbites

Contemporary Australia is one of the safest places in the world, but public perception has been distorted by years of media sensationalism. The fear and paranoia created results in every politician needing to declare themselves to be "tough on crime" in order to get elected. "Tough on crime" is a meaningless soundbite, a slogan that represents short-term, shallow thinking about punishment rather than systematic strategies to steadily reduce crime over time and produce more productive and peaceful citizens. Politicians who appear to be spending taxpayers' money on convicted criminals are "exposed" for being too lenient to perpetrators and disrespectful to victims and their families, and run the risk of losing their next election. Despite numerous reports of Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees recommending against increased imprisonment, government policies never change.[215]

Do longer sentences reduce crime?

Longer sentences do deter crime — up to a point.[216] There is strong evidence that increasing the certainty of punishment deters crime,[217] but that increasing the length of sentences only deters crime where the initial sentence was short — criminals do value the future, just not as much as the average person.[218]

Is Australia already rehabilitating prisoners?

Legislation in Australia is inconsistent when it comes to the delivery of rehabilitative services at the state, territory and federal levels.[219] In the rare instances where a cohesive legislative commitment can be identified, the legislation is fragmented, with the focus varying between corrections, sentencing, parole programs or court administration. The Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that uniform legislation setting out a generally-accepted understanding of the purposes of rehabilitation and how best to achieve it may remedy this situation.

Does rehabilitation work?

The most effective forms of prisoner treatment are skill-oriented, based on a behavioural or cognitive-behaviour theoretical model and multi-modal.[220] Skills-based programs directed at improving cognitive and employment skills work far better in terms of prisoner rehabilitation than casework and individual or group counselling, and are associated with reduced problem behaviours.

Social impact bonds

The lack of political will to invest in effective rehabilitation strategies can be countered with 'social impact bonds'[221].

Social impact bonds are an arrangement under which a private business is assigned large randomised batches of prisoners prior to or after release and provides them with whatever reform and rehabilitation services they deem necessary to successfully reintegrate the newly released prisoners. Social impact bonds cover a diverse range of tailored services that are designed to reduce recidivism, and consequent government savings from reduced re-offending are used to pay for this service. If no improvement is made amongst their assigned batch of released prisoners, then the business receives no payment, but if recidivism is reduced and therefore the cost of law enforcement, corrective services and the crimes themselves are reduced as a result, some contractually agreed proportion of that saving is paid to the social impact bond service provider.

In the worst case scenario where no improvement is made, it costs the government nothing.

In the best case scenario, recidivism is reduced, tax paying citizens are created, considerable savings are made, the rates of crime drops, and former prisoners are successfully reintegrated into the workplace and society in general becomes a safer community.

Private prisons — a huge conflict of interest

Private corporations by definition, must strive to increase revenue and profits for their shareholders. Public/private enterprises can be good or bad, depending on how they are structured. The structured arrangement described under "Social Impact Bonds" above is an excellent example of a public/private contract structured in the interests of public good. However, a contractual structure where private corporations own and run prisons as a service to government will inevitably create a conflict of interest. The business will want to grow and therefore it will want to run more prisons and service more prisoners. This is the opposite of the most desirable outcome for the people of any nation — we want less crime, and a corresponding reduction in both prisons and prisoners.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Provide options for alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders

  • Support alternative non-custodial sentencing options including weekend detention and home arrest with ankle monitors.
  • Optimise sentencing times based around solid research into the effectiveness of sentence times as a deterrent.
  • Increase the focus on community service as a form of repayment to society.

Improve incentives for prisoners to undergo rehabilitation and reform

  • Institute in-prison, skill oriented rehabilitation programmes, based on a cognitive-behaviour theoretical model.
  • Trial a programme in which low-risk prisoners can undertake paid employment, with part of their income being given to a victims of crime fund and the remainder being held for the prisoner until their release.
  • Allow prisoners' non-parole periods to be reduced by working, promotions and increasing skill levels where appropriate.
  • Ensure transgender prisoners are placed in the correct prisons according to their preferred gender, based on assessment and certification by trained medical and psychiatric professionals.[222][223]
  • Ensure transgender prisoners who were undergoing hormone replacement therapy prior to imprisonment are able to continue their treatment while detained.

Trial social impact bonds

  • Run a social impact bond trial for prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration, including an independent academic evaluation of its effectiveness.

Reduce causes of offending and reoffending

An end to the war on drugs

People have always sought to alter their consciousness. Most human activity is an attempt to either experience positive emotions, or gain relief from negative ones. For some, good fortune and friendship provide the means for happiness. However, people plagued by isolation and mental illness may look in other directions for peace and relief. It is this category of people who are the primary target and victims of the war on drugs.

John Ehrlichman- senior advisor to President Nixon. Source

The war on drugs is best understood as a war on a market. Such wars are futile: demand always creates supply, and ad-hoc attacks on supply channels do nothing other than reduce the quality of drugs and increase the risks. Harsh punishment for drug use targets people who are cut off and isolated, and cuts off and isolates them more. In this way, drug prohibition worsens the fundamental drivers of addiction and forces a substitution of an unregulated black market in place of the legal one, making criminals of regular citizens and funding organised crime.

The cost of the war on drugs

At present the illegal drug market is worth around $300 billion per year,[224] making a mockery of prohibition. After 40 years, it is clear that the choice we face is not between drugs and no drugs, but between legal and illegal drug markets.

The illegal market funnels vast profits to criminals and imposes equally vast costs on society. The US spends $50 billion per year fighting the war on drugs,[225] and global spending is far greater. The secondary costs are incalculable: jailing people for drug offences does far more to destroy individual lives and potential than the drugs themselves. The policy is ineptly targeted, excluding alcohol and tobacco while imposing massive punishments on non-violent users of much less harmful products.[226] In producer countries, the illegal market has enriched drug cartels, causing thousands of deaths every year,[227] corrupting civil societies and creating a risk of failed states.

Prohibition offers no success on any front: figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime show no observable decline in global drug use,[228] nor is any decline evident in Australia.[229] Results among individual nations show no correlation between drug use levels and the harshness of drug laws.[230]

The remedy

The experience of Portugal—where decriminalisation led to an observable fall in addiction and deaths[231]—suggests that a much better approach exists. Imprisonment is an immoral and ineffective way of handling mental health issues and other drivers of drug abuse. It is cheaper and more effective to handle these issues in the sphere of public health. Legalising and taxing safe drugs will raise revenue to fund better support services for addicts and their families. Decriminalising other drugs will broaden options for treatment and allow help to be extended without the threat of criminal sanctions. Effective policy must offer help and treatment, but must also recognise that most drug users are neither addicts nor criminals.

In handling drugs, policymakers should also take note of their one success: the campaign against tobacco. The anti-tobacco campaign has reduced the proportion of smokers by 40% over 20 years[232] through a combination of advertising, warnings, and social sanctions in a legal framework. It is a far more successful model than prohibition, and a broader application of it should be considered.

Ultimately however, successful drug policy must bear in mind that the opposite of addiction is not abstinence, but connection. The state cannot control what a person puts into their own body—but it can help addicts to reconnect with society and offer a pathway out of addiction.

The Pirate Party proposes an end to the failed war on drugs and a shift towards an evidence-based model which treats drugs as a health issue instead of a criminal one.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Legalise safe, non-addictive drugs

  • Establish a controlled substances committee comprising healthcare professionals. This committee will be instructed to use fact- and evidence-based approaches to:
    • Classify psychoactive substances based on criteria such as:
      • Addictive properties
      • Habituating properties
      • Perception impairment
      • Reversible impact on the user
      • Known therapeutic properties
    • Re-classification will be performed periodically.
    • The committee will be able to recommend conditions for obtaining legalised substances, such as requiring a psychological evaluation, etc.
  • Legalise substances which are non-addictive and have a reversible impact on the user.
  • Apply a tax to legalised drugs.
    • Tax rates will be set at a level which balances the need to manage health impacts with the need to provide financial incentives to avoid the black market.
  • Regulate sales of legalised drugs.
    • Require licences for retailers (as per conditions for selling alcohol).
    • Include mandatory warnings on health risks.
    • Restrict products to sale in limited quantities, with no sales to intoxicated persons.
    • Ban all forms of advertising.
    • Ensure products are subject to strict quality control, with penalties for poor product quality being equivalent to those currently applied to pharmaceuticals.
    • Require age verification for all drug sales.
    • Exports to countries where drugs remain illegal will be a criminal offence unless products are sold under license to authorities in those countries that are legally permitted such purchases.
    • Retain criminal penalties for making drugs available to minors.

Partially decriminalise drugs which fail to meet the threshold for legalisation

  • Apply decriminalisation to possession, purchase and consumption of small quantities (up to 14 days supply) of drugs for personal use.
    • Handle infractions outside the criminal justice system, with civil penalties including confiscation of drugs, treatment recommendations, and suspension of the right to practice in a profession where a duty of care exists.
    • Ensure treatment can be imposed as part of a prosecution if other civil or criminal acts are committed by a person under the influence of drugs.
    • Penalties for the sale of small quantities of decriminalised drugs should include fines and confiscation of products under civil law.
  • Retain criminal sanctions for possession, sale or smuggling of substances in commercial quantities.
  • Allow decriminalised drugs to be available under prescription.
    • Supply would be procured following medical consultation in instances where harm minimisation or addiction treatment requires it, or as a mechanism for reducing black market purchasing.
    • Chemists providing drugs will be required to provide dosage levels, toxicity information, and information about side effects, as per standard requirements for medication.

Redirect existing resources and additional revenue to fund more research and support services

  • Expand mental health services, rehabilitation facilities, community support services, emergency housing, and programs to assist addicts with social re-integration.
    • Persons seeking treatment will be entitled to protection of their privacy as per a doctor-patient relationship.
  • Adopt harm minimisation techniques.
    • Pharmacies will be encouraged to make clean needles and drug testing kits available.
  • Redirect police and prison resources towards preventing violent crime.
    • Curb the use of sniffer dogs and random "inspections" at public events.
  • Undo restrictions on research and data collection imposed during prohibition.
    • Re-start research programs utilising previously banned drugs.
    • Re-start data collection on drug use and drug effects.

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Foreign policy


Like all legal mechanisms, treaties derive legitimacy through consent and consultation. In recent years, however, treaty negotiations have become progressively more secretive. Treatymaking has become more exclusionary, and repeated requests for serious analysis of costs and benefits around preferential trade deals have been ignored.[240] The Productivity Commission has recently warned, "Preferential trade agreements add to the complexity, and cost of international trade through substantially different sets of rules of origin, varying coverage of services and potentially costly intellectual property protections and investor-state dispute settlement provisions".[241]

Recent preferential trade deals have included protectionist poison pills in the form of stronger IP laws, which open the way to corporate rent-seeking[242] and inflated prices for essentials such as medicine.[243][244] Other preferential trade deals have contained mandates for monitoring of internet use and surveillance,[245] or have introduced new rights for corporations to sue governments.[246].

None of this is necessary for true free trade. Free trade should be encouraged for the enormous economic benefits it brings, especially to developing countries. Trade provides an incentive for countries to engage with each other for their mutual benefit, laying the groundwork for broader co-operation and peace. Tariffs, often described as a tax on overseas producers, are in truth a tax on ourselves, offering little more than higher prices and protracted deaths to the industries they "protect". The best and simplest way to support trade is not through complex trade treaties which remove Australians rights, but through simple, unilateral removal of trade barriers and tariffs. This is the course which the Productivity Commission and virtually all serious economists recommend.[247]

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Support principles of transparency and openness in treaties and trade agreements

  • Ensure treaty negotiations are subject to oversight and public participation.
    • Require a window for public participation and the availability of draft texts prior to signing.
  • Conduct a constitutional referendum to require parliamentary oversight and consent in treaty making and other international instruments.
  • Renegotiate or withdraw from treaties which unduly restrict policy including:
    • Treaties which bind Australia to economically harmful intellectual property laws. These include the Berne Convention, WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).
    • Treaties which oblige Australia to adopt failed models of drug prohibition. These include the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
  • Ban inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions and ensure foreign businesses retain equivalent legal protections to domestic businesses.
  • Ensure Australia complies fully with all treaty clauses which protect individual rights.
    • Remove exceptions granted to Australia which potentially reduce the capacity of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to protect Australian citizens.[248]
  • Begin negotiations on an international treaty to enshrine net neutrality, freedom of the internet from state control, and protection for private communication, free expression, and unrestricted access to information.

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Defence, diplomacy and aid

Australia's defence strategy has been marred for decades by confused objectives.[249] Australia's defence forces have been stretched between competing goals: defence of our continent on the one hand, and participation in faraway imperial projects on the other. On the domestic front, changes to laws have further muddied the waters, creating a precedent for the use of defence forces against civilians on domestic soil (in the name of protecting 'Commonwealth interests').[250] We believe these confused objectives need to be resolved, and the defence forced aligned to a simple purpose—namely safeguarding of Australia's territory and people. Use of defence forces and security services should be reserved for moments of real need, and with full parliamentary oversight. Simpler goals will improve transparency and enable better use of scarce resources.

Pirate Party Australia supports investment in high quality, 'asymmetric' capability designed to raise the costs of attacking Australia. Modern submarines are powerful defensive tools for an ocean-surrounded nation[251][252][253] with some estimates suggesting they require an investment ratio of more than 100:1 to defeat (meaning every dollar spent on submarine capability requires at least $100 for an aggressor to counter)[254]. Reliable, affordable aircraft and a well equipped army are also useful as a way to deter rational aggressors by further increasing the scale of forces an invader would need to commit.

Other forms of defence spending should be reduced. Australia should cease spending on force projection and tools to invade and occupy other countries. The goal to increase spending to 2 per cent of GDP is arbitrary and unnecessary, and we oppose the current wasteful spending on flawed joint strike fighters,[255] large and vulnerable warships,[256] and long-range bombers. A simpler defence objective would reduce the need for this kind of spending; it would also clear the way for significant reductions in defence bureaucracy.

Pirate Party Australia believes regional peacekeeping and security engagement are legitimate functions which should receive a higher priority[257] Regional engagement will facilitate trade and investment and provide channels to manage regional issues such as asylum seekers. Australia should also do more to meet its Millennium Development Aid targets. This could be done by re-allocating recent defence funding bloat and re-targeting it to support overseas aid and regional development.[258][259] This will promote Australia's security in ways that military power cannot.

Pirate Party Australia will also push governments to make better use of diplomatic channels. A much stronger response is needed following exposure of warrantless mass surveillance of Australian citizens by the US National Security Agency. We recognise that whistleblowers have played an invaluable role in exposing this, and we call for overseas whistleblowers who offer information relevant to the public good to be granted protection under Australian whistle blower laws. We also believe foreign intelligence and surveillance facilities operating in Australia should become subject to greater Australian oversight.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve defence transparency and focus

  • Focus defence on safeguarding Australian people and territory.
    • Prioritise investment in 'sea denial' (off-the-shelf submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles), informational warfare, and intensive regional engagement.
    • Remove prime ministerial authority to commit Australia to war and ensure military engagement requires parliamentary approval with two-thirds support in both houses of parliament.
    • Repeal the Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to Civilian Authorities) Act[260].
    • Ensure the Defence Trade Controls Act[261] does not restrict academic freedom or any right to encryption.
  • Improve transparency of defence operations.
    • Subject foreign intelligence and surveillance facilities in Australia to parliamentary oversight.
    • Review national secrets files and release all material which is not operationally important.
    • Enact recommendations of the DLA Piper Review[262] to protect defence personnel from abuse and misconduct.
  • Reduce waste and stabilise defence funding at around 1.5 per cent of GDP.
    • Place funding for future capability into a separate budget, with spending subject to open tenders and public oversight.
    • Enact recommendations of First Principles Review[263] to reduce defence bureaucracy, enhance strategic focus and improve efficiency.
    • Sell non-critical defence land and buildings to reduce maintenance costs and fund future capability.

Expand use of diplomacy and aid in support of global human rights

  • Increase foreign aid to 0.5 per cent of GDP in line with Millennium Development Goals.[264][265]
    • Increase export of generic medicines (see patents policy), and prioritise areas such as childhood nutrition, universal education, environmental preservation, and access to contraception and immunisation.
    • Ensure local producers are not disadvantaged by dumping of aid products, with local suppliers of goods and services to be used where practical.
  • Support political asylum or subsidiary protection status for overseas whistleblowers per provisions of Article 14 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [266]
  • Suspend extradition processes and law enforcement cooperation in cases where:
    • Only political offences have been committed.
    • The act being investigated is not an offence in Australia.
    • A death penalty could potentially apply.
    • The nation involved has not ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture.
  • Utilise diplomatic and political channels to seek urgent clarification from nations that Australia has intelligence sharing arrangements with regarding the scope of monitoring of Australian citizens.
  • Provide protection under Australian whistleblower laws for overseas whistleblowers who offer information relevant to the public good.

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Asylum seekers and refugees

Australia has not done well at handling asylum seekers in recent years. Previous policy changes contributed to a surge of boat arrivals which led to more than a thousand deaths at sea and overwhelmed processing capacity, leading to indefinite detention for tens of thousands[267][268] More recently, policy towards asylum seekers has swung the other direction, becoming so harsh that the lives of those imprisoned have been destroyed in the name of creating a “deterrence” for others.

A more balanced and humane approach ultimately requires a regional solution. We believe efforts should begin at once to set up a single regional asylum seeker 'queue'. Asylum seekers arriving anywhere in the region should be subject to a single processing system overseen by an independent body with all participating nations accepting a share of approved refugees. The existence of a common regional queue would remove specific incentives to travel to Australia, reducing drowning and deterring backdoor economic migration. A regional approach would encourage information pooling to improve document and identity checking, and a transparent allocation process to reduce disputes between nations. The creation of a new system of oversight would allow for a best practice approach built from the ground up, with a humane appeals process and a means for swift and safe return of arrivals deemed not to be asylum seekers.

Such a scheme would require funding, leadership, and specific incentives provided by Australia to encourage sign-up. However, Australia currently spends over $1 billion per year on detention facilities,[269] and redirection of these funds will free up significant resources. Nations such as Indonesia would have strong incentives to sign up, both to receive incentives, and to obtain help with settling their large backlog of asylum seekers. As participating countries would be required to sign the UN Refugee Convention, funding and aid from Australia could become a mechanism for improving region-wide standards in asylum seeker handling.

Asylum seeking is lawful, and processing should not last longer than the minimum time-frame necessary to assess claims and conduct health and security checks. Approved asylum seekers can be brought into the community, provided with support and training, and settled in areas where jobs remain persistently vacant (the National Farmers Federation estimates around 96,000 jobs are unfilled in regional areas).[270]

The Pirate Party believes it is past time that our response to the plight of vulnerable people embodied our best qualities instead of our worst.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Set up a single regional asylum seeker "queue" comprising willing refugee convention signatory countries

  • Australia to offer funding and leadership.
  • All countries take a share of asylum seekers according to a transparent allocation process.
  • A single process will provide common housing, education, treatment and assessment for all asylum seekers who arrive in any participating country.
    • Assessments, health & security checks to be conducted in common, agreed places.
    • Process to be overseen by UNHCR or by an independent, expert organisation.
    • Assessment of backlogged claims to be fast-tracked.
    • Families should be kept together, and asylum seekers may submit preferences on a destination nation.
      • Preferences may be taken into account, but final decisions to be made by the overseeing body in line with agreed quotas.
    • Nations to pool information to assist with document and identity checking.
    • Processing will follow all relevant international law and treaties.

Change immigration and asylum seeker processes regarding claims of gender, sex and orientation based oppression

  • Implement Kaleidoscope Australia's Guide to Best Practice in Determining Applications for Refugee Status Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Grounds:[271]
    • Provide training for immigration on gender, sex and orientation variations context, including privacy needs and processes.
    • Inform asylum seekers of the need to state the basis of their claim early, even if that does not mean they are required to substantiate it at that time.
    • Assign advocates that speak the asylum seekers' languages.
    • Implement protocols and processes for managing privacy, including not making it obvious that additional privacy measures are being taken in specific cases.
    • Only use medical professionals to establish the truth of claimed personal conditions. Regular customs officers are not qualified for this.

Release refugees accepted into Australia into the community

  • Successful asylum seekers assigned to Australia to be brought safely as refugees (by plane or naval vessel).
  • Conditions of release should include reporting requirements and continued availability for processing.
  • Peer-driven community training and social services will help refugees understand their legal rights, build social networks, and overcome disadvantage (language barriers, skills, trauma, etc).
  • Refugees to be provided with a basic income, a right to work, and a pathway to citizenship.
  • Savings from closing offshore detention centres to be redirected in order to provide:
    • Incentives for regional nations to sign the refugee convention and engage with the plan.
    • Resources to speed processing times, develop humane processing practices, and improve support services in destination countries.

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