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Official Party Document
The veracity of this document is ensured by the National Council and editing of this page is limited to members of the National Council.

The Party has also adopted several Position Statements that cut across and combine several aspects of this platform, or apply Pirate principles to a specific issue.

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.
  • Reform section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) [11] to require intent; to require clear and convincing evidence; and to exclusively address provable harm in the forms of harassment, intimidation, or grave psychological abuse, removing all references to subjective criteria of insult, offense, and humiliation.
  • 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 the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 (Cth)[12]
  • 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.[13][14]

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.[15][16] 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.[17][18][19] 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.[20]
    • 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[21] to create a single tort covering both intrusion into seclusion and misuse of private information.[22]
    • Ensure tort is subject to a public interest test and is actionable only by natural persons.[23]
    • 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.[24]
      • 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, [25] 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.[26][27] 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.

Gun Control
To clarify a frequently asked question of policy, Pirate Party Australia supports the National Agreement on Firearms (1996). The agreement does not unreasonably restrict personal liberty in the use or ownership of firearms for legitimate purposes, while insisting on standards to ensure basic community safety and to limit proliferation into criminal enterprise.

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[28].

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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 identity change, under which a non-binary gender option is available for passports and can be changed with a simple application.[29]

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Marriage pre-dates all organisations by many thousands of years. The interests of the state, as opposed to the interests of any religion or political party, are limited to recognising permanent relationships, ensuring they are consensual and that any children have clear and capable guardianship.

The Marriage Act in its previous form, especially after 2004,[30] denied many people a human right that is taken for granted by most. It reinforced stigmas at a time when anxiety was widespread and suicide attempts among LGBT persons far outstripped the general population.[31] In 2017 a plebiscite effectively secured changes to the Marriage Act which resulted in expanding the definition of relationships from "a man and a woman" to "2 people", but failed to address the underlying principle.

The only effective way to secure civil rights and liberties is to return marriage to the community, to be interpreted by all in line with their own traditions and values. Establishment of a Civil Unions Act, to replace the Marriage Act, would offer equal treatments, rights, and recognition to all under the law.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Replace the Marriage Act 1961 with a Civil Unions Act

  • People in a union under the Civil Unions Act will be afforded the same rights and equivalent legal and monetary benefits as available under the current Marriage Act.
  • Civil unions will be available to all (and only) consenting adults.
  • Adults in legally recognised unions from overseas will be recognised under this Act, provided such unions meet Australian standards.
  • 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 their organisational values.
  • Recognise polyamorous unions.
    • Require the consent of existing partners to add a new partner.
    • Require that any prospective partner be fully informed about existing partners.
    • Require explicit declarations of guardianship of children.
  • Existing recognition of de facto relationships would continue and expand to include polyamorous relationships.

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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.[32][33][34][35] 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.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38] The Pirate Party proposal incorporates the most fundamental and essential elements of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[39] the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[40] and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[41]

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.[42][43]


  • 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,[44] 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.[45] 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.[46]

The recommendations of the 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into IT Pricing[47] and Australian Law Reform Commission's 2014 report on Copyright and the Digital Economy[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]

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 [51]. 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 [52], 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[53], 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[54][55] 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 [56] and provide free facilities for creation of music and art [57]. They will also be places where legal obstacles such as obsolete Digital Rights Management (which hampers archivists who seek to engage in digital archiving)[58] 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 [59] 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) [60]
  • 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".[61]

Early childhood education

Pirate Party Australia supports trials in Australia of the childcare cooperative system used successfully overseas. [62] 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.[63][64] 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 the individual needs of their students, 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.[65] It doesn't improve value for money: a huge increase in private funding has seen relatively small shifts in student numbers,[66] and where students have shifted, the largest impact has been to concentrate poorer students into the increasingly under-funded public system.[67][68] And it clearly hasn't improved educational standards: basic science teaching is regularly undermined in religious schools[69][70] and overall educational outcomes for Australian children have been falling relentlessly in recent years, especially among the most disadvantaged[71][72] .

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.[73]
    • 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,[74] while two thirds believe academic freedom is being curtailed.[75] 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.[76] 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.[77]

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 bring 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,[78] 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.[79] 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.[80][81][82][83] 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 intended to be patentable under the original terms of patent law. However, an attempt to extend the scope of patent law temporarily permitted patents on human genes on the grounds that extraction of material from its natural environment is akin to having “invented” it.[84][85]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.[86][87] Gene patents also lead to huge costs being imposed on sick and dying patients for simple tests and treatments.[88]

In 2015, the High Court of Australia overturned the ruling that enabled this atrocity, noting that this could have a “chilling effect” on healthcare and research, and that “such a result would be at odds with the purposes of the patent system”.[89]

The Pirate Party maintains that patents on naturally occurring living and genetic material, regardless of environment, should continue to be outside the bounds of patent law.

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]

Declared Value System

The patent system should reflect the potential public benefit of ending a patent monopoly, and provide that option via a market system. A balanced approach is to use a Declared Value System[99], whereby the patent holder must declare a liberation value for their patent. If another party (including the government) were willing to pay to permanently abolish the patent, the patent holder would receive the liberation value as compensation. The patent registration fees would be set as a percentage of the liberation value (e.g. 0.2% p.a) and could be escalated over time. Patent holders could adjust their liberation value in response to buy-out offers, provided they pay the difference in fees from the previous value. This system would make it unprofitable to sit idly on patents, or to buy up large amounts of patents to stifle competition. Consequently, the allocation efficiency[100] of patent monopolies would be improved. This ensures that the public receives a fair proportion of the monopoly rents created by the patent, innovators are rewarded, useful patents are more successfully commercialised, and monopolies reflect a true cost to the market. To offset the potential cost escalation on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of higher patent fees, additional revenue could be hypothecated into SME legal aid to reduce legal costs of defending against patent challenges and breach of patent.

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 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.
  • Improve reporting requirements
    • Improve reporting requirements around public funding spent on pharmaceutical development
    • Improve pharmaceutical sector reporting to the ACCC to prevent anticompetitive behaviour

Restructure patent fees

  • Reduce the initial threshold for claim fees, and increase claim fees for applications with a large number of claims.
  • Initiate a review into patent fee structure - including the feasibility of adopting a Declared Value System to replace the existing cost-recovery based patent fee system.

Implement the Productivity Commission's recommendations[101] to improve the patent legal system

  • Introduce a specialist IP list in the Federal Circuit Court, encompassing features similar to those of the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Enterprise Court:
    • Limit trials to two days
    • Caps on costs and damages
    • Small claims procedure
  • Expand the jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court to hear all IP matters, and provide the resources necessary to maintain existing resolution times.
  • Assess the costs and benefits of these reforms five years after implementation

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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.[102]

It's time Australia put real muscle behind it's scientific endeavour and adopted a serious National Science Plan[103][104]. 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.[105]

A Science Plan would help to address poor collaboration between business and higher education.[106] 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.[107] 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. [108] [109]

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. [110]
    • 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[111][112] 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.[113]

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.[114] 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,[115] at the supranational level in the European Union,[116] Finland,[117] all German states,[118] Hungary,[119] Italy,[120] Latvia,[121], Lichtenstein,[122] Lithuania,[123] New Zealand,[124] Poland,[125] Portugal,[126] Spain,[127] Switzerland,[128] several states of the United States[129] and Uruguay.[130]

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,[131] 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.[132] 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.[133]
        • 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.[134]
      • 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.[135]
      • 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.[136] However, numerous indigenous societies have faced virtual destruction as a consequence of discrimination,[137] paternalism,[138] genocide,[139] as well as the introduction of diseases,[140] substance abuse,[141] slavery[142] and dependency on the state.[143] Families have been broken up,[144] and discrimination in the criminal justice system[145] 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)[146] overturned the doctrine of terra nullius that was used to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.[147] 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.[148] 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.[149] 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.[150] 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.[151] 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."[152]

It is against that backdrop that the Pirate Party supports some of the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Peoples for a referendum to repeal the 'race provisions' in the Australian Constitution (Sections 25 and 51(xxvi)), and to include an explicit prohibition of racial discrimination.[153]

It is clear from the Uluru Statement from the Heart[154] that Indigenous Australians do not want constitutional recognition as proposed by the Expert Panel. It is also clear that many indigenous activists oppose the Uluru Statement from the Heart because it does not include the possibility of a sovereign Treaty. With this in mind, Pirate Party Australia supports Indigenous efforts to resolve the injustices of Australia’s colonial history. We recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded and support efforts to negotiate in good faith a Treaty, Treaties or other formal agreements between the Commonwealth of Australia and the First Nations as decided by representative indigenous bodies.

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Electoral System Reform

In a well functioning democracy, the outcome of an election should reflect the will of the people who voted. Interest groups, both big and small, should be able to look at the results and agree that the process was carried out with integrity and everyone is fairly represented. Further, the resulting government should have support from the majority of the population. Judged by that standard, Australian electoral systems are thoroughly broken.

Current systems fail voters

The number of seats a political party obtains in the Lower Houses of State and Federal Parliaments usually has little relation to the number of voters who support that party. Governments are regularly formed with nowhere near a majority of first-choice support. Sometimes 20% or more of the voting population goes without having their votes represented at all. In one particularly spectacular case in Queensland in 2012, an election produced a result where only a single party had any significant presence in Parliament.[155] This disconnect becomes even worse when it is remembered that MPs almost always vote according to party lines.

The root cause of this problem is the use of many single-member electoral divisions. Voters who form a minority in many divisions fail to elect their preferred party's candidates and can easily go without any representation, even though they may be a large portion of the population overall. Conversely, voters who form small majorities in many divisions can easily become overrepresented. When this geographic bias is intentionally exploited it is called gerrymandering. But even when intentional gerrymandering isn't an issue, the problem remains unless the voting system is designed to consider the big picture as well as individual divisions.

Follow-on effects from this are numerous. Landslides happen whenever a party obtains many small majorities, producing overrepresentation. Safe seats become commonplace and become neglected in favour of swing seats. Minor parties face extreme difficulty obtaining seats, as they nearly always have thinly spread support. The system encourages excessive focus on local issues even in State and Federal parliaments, because concentrated regionalism is the only path to success. Focus for minor parties shifts towards where their chances are greater, which is usually the Upper Houses, and helps to produce overcrowded "tablecloth" ballot papers. The political landscape stagnates with a mere few adversarial parties playing tug-of-war, switching back and forth every few terms.

Details differ among the different levels of government in Australia, but this problem is nearly always present. Even in the ACT's Legislative Assembly and Tasmania's House of Assembly, where multi-seat divisions are used, some disconnect between voter preferences and party results can be observed. The only places where the problem and flow on effects are unobserved are the Tasmanian Legislative Council and a number of rural Local Councils, where independent candidates dominate.

Partly as a consequence of of the 'tablecloth' ballot papers, substantial nomination deposits are required to stand in many elections around the country. For all but a handful of candidates, these deposits are effectively fees, taking up limited financial resources that would be better spent on campaigning. Further, the continued size of the Federal Senate and NSW Legislative Council ballots indicate that such fees are insufficient as a barrier to entry anyway. Finally, it is common for parties to stand candidates in areas those candidates have no connection to - because for parties, the nomination deposit is the only external restriction.

Other more minor issues also plague Australia's electoral systems. Federal division, State district, and Local ward boundaries differ wildly. Optional vs full preferencing differs depending on State, as does the methods of filling unexpected mid-term vacancies. Term lengths differ, both in length and fixed vs varying, between different levels of government. Single Transferable Vote is counted by software processing of scanned ballots, yet the software used is not made available for scrutiny.[156]

Solutions and non-solutions

Fixing the big problem and most of the follow-on effects requires a voting system that is designed to ensure that overall party support matches overall seats won. Voting systems that are designed to ensure this are called "proportional representation" systems. There are three well-tested voting systems that can provide this, or close enough to it.

Open Party List[157] is a system where voters cast a vote for a party and a candidate within that party. Seats are then allocated to each party according to the proportion of votes that party received, and those seats are filled by the most popular candidates within each party. Implementations often involve several separate multi-seat divisions, but overall proportionality can still be maintained by reserving some seats to allocate according to the overall vote. Of the three systems mentioned here, this has the highest number of other countries already using it. However it is the most different to all systems currently in use in Australia, and it has been previously tried and rejected by voters in the ACT. It also does not handle independent candidates well, nor does it do a good job providing localised representatives.

Single Transferable Vote[158] is currently in use for Local elections in some States, most Upper Houses, and the ACT Legislative Assembly and Tasmanian House of Assembly. Because political party is not taken into account, this system does not guarantee proportionality. It often gets close in practice but only when a single multi-seat division is used. This places practical limits on the overall number of seats and means no localised representation at all. The system does, however, handle independent candidates extremely well, and minimises potentially wasted votes when the available number of seats is small. These characteristics make it ideal for Local Council elections and the Upper Houses of Parliament, but not the larger Lower Houses that are generally intended to represent the population of the State/Territory/Country as a whole.

Mixed Member Proportional[159] is a system where approximately half of the available seats are filled with candidates elected from single seat divisions. Then the remaining seats are allocated to each party to ensure that the overall proportion of votes each party received corresponds to the number of seats each party obtains. If preferences are used for the single seat divisions, the required ballots closely resemble current Instant Runoff ballots. Independent candidates and localised representation are both handled about as well as with current single seat divisions. This system works best when the overall number of seats to be allocated is not too small, and most candidates are affiliated with a party. These characteristics make it ideal for the Lower Houses of Parliament. This system was chosen by New Zealand in the early 1990's when conducting reform to their electoral system.

Electronic voting, as in where votes are cast and counted entirely electronically, is not a solution. The most it could offer is an easier time handling excessively large ballot papers. But, as pointed out, that is only a minor symptom of the real problem, and in return for convenience electronic voting introduces a laundry list[160][161] of issues that compromise trust in any election. Electronically assisted voting, as in where votes are selected on a computer, printed out, then handled the same as other paper ballots, does not address the underlying problems. It too will only offer an easier time handling large ballot papers, and currently would add significant unnecessary expense to elections.

While it is distasteful to impose barriers to democratic participation, it is acceptable to require prospective candidates to demonstrate some level of community support. This support should not be measured in dollars (as it currently is), but rather in people: nomination signatures from electors of that district, region or state.

The importance of a Royal Commission

Any political party pushing directly to change the electoral system is subject to a conflict of interest. Political rivals will rightly have suspicions, and the entire issue will likely fail to gain traction. The only way to build a consensus and ensure a fair outcome is to empower an independent body to investigate the issue and come up with solutions. For that reason, the goal of this policy is to have a Royal Commission appointed which will determine a fair course of action.

Proposed Reforms

Pirate Party Australia advocates for a Royal Commission on the electoral systems used in all levels of government in Australia, to decide on how to best make our elections fairer, more democratic, and more accessible to the voting population.

To that Royal Commission, Pirate Party Australia will make the following recommendations:

Voting Systems

  • Mixed Member Proportional is the best option for use in all State and Federal Lower Houses
    • This would ensure both accurate overall representation of the votes, and that all areas have an MP tasked with representing their concerns
    • Optional preferential is the best option for electing the division seats, to allow voters full control and for consistency with Single Transferable Vote
    • No thresholds should be used, as they distort the results away from how people voted
    • The Largest Remainder Method with Droop quota[162] is the best option for allocating top-up seats to parties, for consistency with Single Transferable Vote
    • Best Near Winner[163] should be used for filling top-up seats to ensure all MPs are directly elected by the people
  • Single Transferable Vote is the best option for use in all Local Councils and State and Federal Upper Houses
    • This works well with both the large number of Independent Local Councillors and the small number of seats available in most State and Federal Upper House elections
    • Above The Line voting should be abolished, as reform to the Lower Houses should ease the candidate crowding that originally necessitated Above The Line
    • The number of Wards for Local Councils should be minimised, ideally using only one whenever practical to avoid geographic bias
  • Robson Rotation[164] should be adopted for all elections in order to eliminate the effects of donkey voting


  • Abolish nomination deposits entirely, or else reduce them to a nominal level
  • Instead, require nomination signatures, from residents of the relevant electorate
  • The number of signatures should be set at a level reflecting the minimum number of campaigners required to interact with a majority of the electorate
    • For the House of Representatives, 10 nominators per candidate, as the top 10 polling places in each Division serve about half the population there
    • For the Senate, 10 nominators for every House of Representatives Division in the State or Territory, per candidate
  • To ease the volume of election-time paperwork:
    • Prospective candidates would be permitted to lodge nominations throughout the year prior to the election
    • Parties undergoing membership audits in the year prior to the election, who demonstrate membership numbers in any electorate equal to or exceeding the nomination requirements, would be pre-approved to stand candidate(s) in those electorates
    • Members of Parliament who are re-contesting their seat would be exempt from these requirements


  • State and Federal geographic division boundaries should be aligned, but Local Council areas should be left to reflect natural community boundaries
    • This would be made practical through the flexible number of single division vs topup seats involved in Mixed-Member Proportional
  • All government elections should be standardised to fixed four year term lengths


  • Paper ballots should remain the only method used for casting votes at all elections, with voters encouraged to cast votes in person at dedicated polling places
  • Any and all software used in the scanning and counting of paper ballots should have its source code made available to the public for scrutiny

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Economic reform

Citizens Dividend: A Streamlined and Empowering Solution

Impact of Citizens Dividend on Net Incomes

The excessive complexity of Australia's tax and welfare systems with over 120 distinct taxes and more than 20 separate welfare payments has been a burden on both the government and recipients. The current welfare system incurs annual administrative costs exceeding $5 billion. A Citizens Dividend would simplify these costs by consolidating multiple welfare programs into a single consistent payment. This streamlined approach promotes transparency and eliminates disincentives to work and save.

A Citizens Dividend is intended to provide a financial safety net for all citizens, empowering individuals to break free from abusive relationships (including exploitative employment relationships) and facilitating smoother transitions from welfare to employment. Consolidating various welfare programs into a single regular payment reduces bureaucracy, strengthens individual rights and fosters positive liberty. This freedom enables citizens to pursue entrepreneurship, innovation, education, training, volunteer work and creative endeavours without the burden of complex payment rules and regulations.

Furthermore, a Citizens Dividend bolsters workers' bargaining power, empowering them to negotiate improved working conditions, fair wages, and a healthier work-life balance. A Citizens Dividend lays the groundwork for 21st-century entrepreneurship and innovation, fostering a thriving and dynamic Australian society.

Choosing 'Citizens Dividend' Over 'Universal Basic Income'

We have chosen the term 'Citizens Dividend' to emphasise that the payment is for citizens as a rightful share of the nation's wealth. This will foster a sense of belonging and responsibility, and reduce the social stigma of traditional welfare programs. Using the term 'Citizens Dividend' highlights our aspiration for the payment to exceed 'basic' needs and have the potential to scale up, empowering individuals to pursue their passions and dreams, invest in their personal growth, and contribute to a vibrant, innovative, and resilient Australia.

Funding the Citizens Dividend

The Citizens Dividend will be financed by two streams: immediate changes to spending and revenue plus the returns generated by a Sovereign Wealth Fund. This approach ensures a sustainable, long-term financing mechanism for the Citizens Dividend, while simultaneously allowing for a gradual ramp-up of the dividend as the fund grows. Introducing a $580 per week Citizens Dividend is estimated to cost $572.9 billion per year. The total number of eligible citizens is estimated to be 21.3 million adults and 4.6 million children based on 2021 census data [165]. To reduce economic shock, the following changes (and thus the basic income) will be phased in over a period of eight years.

Funding the Citizens Dividend
Tax Reform Budget Impact ($bn)
Citizens Dividend -572.9
Displaced Welfare 166.8
25% Flat Income Tax 28.4
Replace Stamp Duty and Payroll Taxes with National Land Value Tax 137.0
Capital Gains Tax Reform 108.5
Tax Gifts and Inheritances 24.0
Remove GST Exemptions 20.7
Remove Super Concessions 43.1
Visa Rent 18.0
Remove Religious Tax Concessions 31.0
Total 4.3

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Inflationary Effects

While some may express concerns that implementing a Citizens Dividend could lead to inflation, it is crucial to recognise that this is a complex issue with multiple considerations that influence the potential impact on inflation. Firstly, it is worth noting that net inflation of this proposal would likely be close to zero. This is due to the revenue-neutral approach of the Citizens Dividend, which ensures the overall money supply in the economy remains stable.

However, it is acknowledged that areas from which the funds are drawn, such as from land value and capital gains, might experience slight deflation, while areas of the economy receiving the funds, such as low-income spending, could see a net inflation. This effect is desirable in two ways; it means that the economy is prioritising the needs of lower-income individuals, and it moderates land values, reducing the barrier to entry into housing. In the first instance, there may be increased pricing for some goods and services that are now in higher demand, such as children's extracurricular activities for example, but this price signal will lead to a market response, increasing supply and ultimately bringing prices down from their peak. This price response is healthy, as it leads to an increase in the supply of services that society needs more of.

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Displaced Existing Welfare

The following welfare services will be streamlined and replaced by the Citizens Dividend. This displacement will replace a total of $166.8 billion of current spending as listed below. The values below are from the 2020 budget [166]. In determining whether a welfare program should be displaced by the Citizens Dividend, the guiding principle used was a consideration of the specificity and complexity of the needs that the program addresses. Programs that provide to those who have no or low income, were identified as candidates for displacement, as their roles could be efficiently served by a universally applicable Citizens Dividend. On the other hand, programs dealing with unique circumstances and needs, such as disability support or veterans' benefits, were earmarked for retention. These programs address needs that are not universal and may be significantly higher or more specialized than what could be covered by a general Citizens Dividend. The Citizens Dividend is seen as a floor upon which other necessary supports can be built, not a replacement for all forms of assistance.

Displaced Benefits
Benefit Expenditure ($bn)
Income Support for Seniors 50.10
Aged Care Services 19.76
Access and information 0.23
Mature Age Income Support 0.15
Aged Care Quality 0.24
Allowances, Concessions and Services for Seniors 0.38
Income Support for People with Disability 17.78
Income Support for Carers 9.38
Disability and Carers 1.45
Family Tax Benefit 18.33
Child Care Subsidy 7.92
Parents Income Support 6.44
Child Support 2.33
Support for the Child Care System 0.32
Families and Children 0.55
Child Payments 0.11
Other Families with Children Benefits 0.01
Paid Parental Leave 2.40
Assistance to the Unemployed and the Sick 20.13
Other Welfare Programs 1.87
Assistance for Indigenous Australians 2.39
General Administration 4.53

The following welfare programs will be retained:

Retained Benefits
Benefit Expenditure ($bn)
Veterans' Community Care and Support 0.99
National Partnership Payments - Assistance to the Aged 0.01
National Disability Insurance Scheme 18.68
Assistance to the States for Disability Services 0.17
National Partnership Payments - Assistance to People with Disabilities 1.58
Family Relationship Services 0.18
Assistance to Veterans and Dependents 7.71

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Implement a Citizens Dividend to all adult citizens (excluding incarcerated persons) of $580 per week.
    • The Citizens Dividend for minors shall be equal to half that of the adult Citizens Dividend, paid to the guardian(s) of that minor.

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Transition to a Flat Income Tax System

Our proposed tax reform, incorporating a 25% flat income tax, a Citizens Dividend, a national land tax, and adjustments to the capital gains tax system, encapsulates a comprehensive, progressive, and future-focused approach to Australia's tax structure.

The cornerstone of this reform is a 25% flat income tax. Simplifying our current tax system, this shift eradicates the complexities tied to multiple tax thresholds, the myriad of tax offsets, and reduces reporting requirements. By doing so, it eliminates loopholes, thwarts tax evasion, and negates income diversion through convoluted financial structures such as trusts and companies.

Moreover, the flat tax model is inherently more equitable for those with fluctuating income, like gig workers, small business owners, sportspeople, and individuals in industries with irregular pay cycles. It prevents them from being penalised in years of higher earnings and provides a stable, predictable tax landscape. Similarly, it addresses imbalances experienced by couples with uneven income distributions, ensuring fairness across the board.

In complement to the flat income tax, our Citizens Dividend provides a progressive counterbalance. Functioning as a redistributive mechanism, the Citizens Dividend ensures those on lower incomes are proportionally advantaged, making the overall system progressive. The combination of these two components results in net gains for all income ranges, as demonstrated by our net income graph above.

The introduction of a national land tax and adjustments to the capital gains tax system play a pivotal role in funding this comprehensive tax reform. These changes primarily impact the asset-rich, adding to the overall progressiveness of our approach. The land tax, based on the unimproved value of land, targets wealth accumulation in a resource predominantly owned by affluent Australians. Similarly, our capital gains tax adjustments ensure that individuals who generate substantial income from investments contribute their fair share to the national economy.

By blending these distinct components, we ensure that our proposed tax system is robust and resilient in a world where increasing automation is shifting the income distribution away from labour. This future-ready approach leads to an even playing field for all taxpayers and minimises economic inefficiencies, incentivising productivity and workforce participation.

The replacement of our current income tax system with a flat tax is estimated to generate an additional $28.4 billion per year. This figure is estimated from a Total Personal Income of $951.4 billion [167] and Total Personal Income Tax of $209.49 billion [168]. Most tax offsets are set to be replaced by the Citizens Dividend. This includes offsets for senior Australians, mature age workers, overseas civilians, entrepreneurs, low and middle income earners, and termination payments, as well as zone offsets. However, it does not include tax offsets for private health insurance and foreign employment income.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Transition to a 25% flat income tax system.
    • Include a tax-free threshold for non-citizens at the level of the Citizens Dividend.

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The Case for a Federal Land Value Tax

Australia's stamp duties and payroll tax system, imposes burdens that hinder economic growth and housing affordability. Stamp duties, levied on transactions, create market distortions, discourage mutually beneficial property exchanges, and result in deadweight loss. Payroll tax stifles job creation and business expansion, escalating hiring costs, and imposing a growth disincentive due to differing thresholds and rates across regions.

A fundamental shift to a Land Value Tax (LVT) presents an efficient and equitable solution. LVT, a charge on the unimproved value of land, encourages optimal land use and channels capital towards more productive sectors. Unlike stamp duties and payroll tax, it maintains economic efficiency as it does not influence decisions about work, savings, or the use of land.

One of the key advantages of LVT is its impact on land and housing prices. As the LVT rate rises, it decreases the net return from owning land, effectively moderating its market price. The aim would be to set the tax rate such that land value growth is moderated to zero (in inflation adjusted terms) rather than appropriation of the current value. This mechanism discourages land speculation, induces idle or unused property into the market, and notably improves housing affordability over time. Valued at $5.8 trillion [169], with an average annual increase of 5.8% between 2011 and 2016 [170], Australia's land offers a significant tax base. A proposed federal LVT at 3%, half the average annual growth rate, could yield approximately $137 billion per year, even after compensating states for lost revenue from abolishing stamp duties [171] and payroll taxes [172].

Importantly, a federal LVT is superior to state-based LVTs, which often include tax-free thresholds that individuals and companies can exploit by spreading portfolios across states and using companies and trusts. A uniform federal LVT eliminates these loopholes, establishing a fair and efficient system.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Abolishing inefficient taxes like payroll tax and stamp duties on cars and houses.
  • Implementing a 3% federal LVT on the unimproved land value, extending to owner-occupied housing.
    • Credit the cost of the most recent stamp duty paid against land value tax obligations, as a transitional mechanism.
    • Exempt conservation land.
  • Protecting income-poor taxpayers by allowing tax payments to be deducted from the equity of the land via a Line of Credit or lien.

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Capital Gains Tax Reform


Under the current tax system, when an individual inherits an asset, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) implications are usually deferred until the asset is sold or otherwise disposed of. In some instances, the cost base of the inherited asset is effectively reset, effectively exempting the asset from CGT on gains accumulated prior to inheritance. This arrangement can be perceived as inequitable, as it allows the inheritance of substantial wealth without immediate tax obligations. In essence, it favours wealth accumulation for a few at the expense of broader societal welfare.

In pursuit of a more equitable taxation system, Pirate Party Australia proposes a reform to the handling of inherited assets. Specifically, we advocate for the levy of CGT at the point of inheritance rather than at the point of disposal. This measure ensures that tax obligations are addressed immediately and prevents the deferment of tax liability. This reform would see the taxation of inherited wealth in line with income generated through labour and entrepreneurship. In cases where cash is not readily available to pay the tax, alternative means could be arranged. For example, the tax could be paid by ceding a proportionate amount of equity in the asset, through mechanisms such as a lien or shares. This provision prevents the need for forced sales to meet tax obligations. Low value goods below a threshhold (such as furniture) will be exempt.

Since ‘one-half of capital gains are held until death or donated to charity, thus escaping tax’ [173] we shall estimate the additional revenue available to be approximately the same as the Capital Gains Tax that was collected - $18.4 billion [174]. By capturing tax on inherited gains at the point of transition, we aim to ensure that the compounding returns of that wealth benefit all Australians, not just the few.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Reform Capital Gains Tax by levying CGT at the point of inheritance.

CGT when Loans are Secured Against Assets

The current taxation system allows investors to take out loans against their assets and defer Capital Gains Tax (CGT) indefinitely. This practice often distorts market behavior and creates the "lock-in effect," where investors are incentivised to hold onto their assets longer than they otherwise would to avoid CGT. These practices can significantly distort investment decisions and inhibit the efficient allocation of capital.

In response to this issue, Pirate Party Australia advocates a reform that would levy CGT at the point when loans are secured against an asset. This measure disrupts the loophole that allows investors to defer CGT, ensuring that tax obligations are also met at the time of securing a loan in additional to at the time of asset disposal. To alleviate any potential burden, no forced asset sales would be necessary under this reform. As is currently the case, the valuation of the asset would be agreed upon mutually by the lender and the asset owner, reflecting a fair market value at the time of loan issuance.

The additional revenue that this would generate is difficult to estimate. However research [173] shows that decreasing the tax deferral period from 35 years to 10 years changes the Effective Tax Rate from 10% to 20%, or a doubling of the CGT collected. Since Capital Gains Tax collected was $18.4 billion [174], the additional revenue is estimated to be also approximately $18.4 billion.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Reform Capital Gains Tax by levying CGT when loans are secured against assets.

Removal of the 50% CGT discount

Australia's tax code currently includes a provision that allows for a 50% discount on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) for assets held for more than one year. While this provision may have been implemented with the aim of promoting long-term investment, it has been widely criticised for disrupting the equity and neutrality of the tax system. Indeed, this discount incentivises individuals to structure their finances in a way that allows them to derive a significant portion of their income in the form of capital gains, thereby reducing their tax liability.

This not only introduces an element of bias in the tax system, favouring capital gains income over other forms of income, but also risks eroding the tax base and contributing to wealth inequality. Other forms of capital income, such as dividends and interest, do not receive comparable inflation adjustments, leading to uneven treatment within the taxation system.

To address this, Pirate Party Australia advocates for the abolition of the 50% CGT discount. However, to maintain fairness and address the impact of inflation, we propose adjusting the cost base of the asset for inflation over the period it was held.

This reform could generate an additional $11.7 billion per year [175] in tax revenue. This additional income could be utilised to fund public services, support social initiatives, and promote economic stability and growth. The Pirate Party Australia is committed to tax reforms that promote fairness, equality, and economic prosperity for all Australians.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Reform Capital Gains Tax by removing the 50% CGT discount.

Owner-Occupied Homes

The Pirate Party recognises the need to create a more equitable and efficient tax system. As part of this effort, we propose a significant reform: the reevaluation of the capital gains tax (CGT) exemption currently given to owner-occupied homes. This exemption, which is estimated to be worth about $60 billion a year by the Treasury [176], disproportionately benefits wealthier households and contributes to the distortion of the housing market. International bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have urged Australia to review this substantial tax concession.

The current exemption is more generous than what is typically seen in many other advanced economies. It promotes investment in owner-occupied housing over other types of assets and can contribute to inflated housing prices. By restricting the CGT exemption for the family home, we can reduce these distortions and generate additional tax revenue. This approach aligns with our vision of a tax system that treats all forms of capital income equitably.

In implementing this change, we will consider the potential impacts on homeowners, particularly those who may be asset-rich but income-poor. Specific measures, such as a threshold for tax exemption or limiting the policy to future gains, can be implemented to mitigate any negative effects.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Reform Capital Gains Tax by broadening it to include owner-occupied homes.

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Taxing Gifts and Inheritances as Income

Under the current tax system, a discrepancy exists between earned and unearned income. In an effort to rectify this imbalance, we propose a revision of tax laws to classify gifts and inheritances as taxable income, subject to the income tax rate. Our objective is to cultivate a more equitable tax system and curtail tax avoidance strategies.

While some may consider this a 'death tax', we clarify that the tax is imposed on the recipient, not the deceased, and complements the recipient's existing tax situation. This policy aims to address intergenerational wealth disparities and bridge the wealth gap between those with the fortune of intergenerational wealth and those without such benefits. Importantly, this tax will apply to transfers of assets that are readily convertible to cash and have a clear market value - such as cash, precious metals, stocks, property, and other securities. By focusing on these types of assets, we avoid the challenges of valuing and taxing in-kind benefits, such as the provision of rent-free housing to a family member. We propose to exclude small gifts and ordinary family expenditures from this tax. The law will be crafted in such a way to exempt transfers below a certain threshold, mitigating the burden on average families and focusing on substantial wealth transfers instead. This exemption would encompass normal household expenses and personal living costs, allowing families to provide for their members without undue taxation.

In terms of potential revenue, the total value of wealth transfers, inclusive of inheritances and gifts, exceeded $120 billion[177]. By introducing a 25% flat tax rate on such transfers above the established threshold, we estimate that this could potentially yield an additional $30 billion in tax revenue per annum. This policy will be administered in a manner similar to the existing Fringe Benefits Tax system, ensuring efficient implementation and the fair and consistent application of the law. By embracing these changes, we seek to foster a fairer tax system, mitigate wealth inequality, and generate additional revenue for public investment.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Broaden the income tax base by including gifts and inheritances as taxable income.

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Removing GST Exemptions

The proposal to broaden Australia's GST base involves eliminating current exemptions on essential items such as healthcare, education, and fresh food, among others. These exemptions were initially implemented with the aim of promoting equity and stimulating the consumption of 'merit goods', which generate positive societal externalities. However, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), this approach does not efficiently serve its intended purpose of promoting equity or encouraging consumption of such goods [178]. The inefficiencies stem from the fact that these exemptions inadvertently benefit higher-income households more, as they are the ones who generally spend more on these exempted goods and services.

By eliminating these exemptions, we could simplify the tax system, decrease compliance costs, and reduce distortive effects between different types of goods and services. Modelling suggests that the broadening of the GST base could increase GST collections by approximately $20.7 billion [178].

This additional revenue will be directed towards the Citizens Dividend and this would mitigate any regressive impacts of the expanded GST on lower-income households, effectively transforming the policy into a progressive one. It is worth noting that a significant proportion of this additional GST revenue would come from higher-income households, and while lower-income households might pay a larger proportion of their income in GST, they would receive a net gain as a result of this change.

Regarding goods that produce positive externalities such as education, a targeted approach like direct subsidies would likely be more effective at stimulating their consumption (refer to the Education policy section). The GST system's role should not be to promote socio-economic goals but to collect revenue efficiently. The funds collected could then be utilised in a more targeted and effective manner, like providing subsidies to promote the consumption of goods with positive externalities.

The proposal to eliminate GST exemptions and introduce a Citizens Dividend would lead to a more equitable, efficient, and simpler taxation system. This approach not only improves the overall efficiency of the GST system but also mitigates its regressive impacts, thereby establishing a fairer and more effective taxation system for all Australians.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Broaden the GST base by removing most GST exemptions.
    • Retain exemptions for certain medical and personal-care items by schedule, similar to the PBS.

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Removing Superannuation Concessions

The proposal to remove superannuation concessions and redirect the funds to support a Citizens Dividend offers a more equitable approach to public spending. Superannuation concessions, as outlined in the Treasury's "2021 Tax Benchmarks and Variations Statement" total a staggering $43.1 billion [175]. However, instead of aiding those most in need, these concessions have disproportionately benefited the most affluent, creating an unfair advantage that contravenes the ethos of equal opportunity for all citizens [179].

Over time, superannuation concessions, initially intended to reduce reliance on the aged pension, have inflated at an exponential rate. This bloating of concessions has led to a situation where these tax breaks, ostensibly designed to aid retirement saving, have instead morphed into a vehicle for wealth accumulation for high-income earners, who are best positioned to exploit such incentives [180].

The fairness of the current system has been repeatedly called into question, as data shows that 60% of superannuation tax concessions go to the top 20% of households, with a meagre 11% directed towards the bottom half of all Australian households [181]. This, coupled with gender disparities, where women, despite making up about half of the workforce, receive only 30% of superannuation tax concessions, makes the case for reform even more compelling [181].

In light of these insights, the reform of superannuation concessions is not just critical but urgent. It represents a significant stride towards a more equitable Australia, where funds are allocated in a way that is transparent, fair, and genuinely promotes the well-being of all its citizens.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Remove superannuation concessions.

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Revolutionising Migration: Visa Rent

Our Visa Rent policy represents a fresh approach to Australia's immigration system, combining fairness, efficiency, and market-driven principles. It streamlines the visa process by amalgamating all classes into one, addressing extensive processing times and significant visa backlogs that currently hinder our immigration system. Critically, it targets migrants who can gain the most from relocating to Australia, thus maximising the potential benefits they bring to our economy and society.

Unlike our current skilled visa program, it doesn't preference high-income migrants but rather uses the price signal to select for those with the most to gain by coming here. For instance, a fruit picker that would triple their income by coming to Australia would be more inclined to pay a visa rent than an engineer whose income increase would be marginal. Furthermore, this policy isn't anti-immigration. Pirate Party Australia supports free movement of people and trade across borders and this policy doesn't dictate the number of people we should welcome each year, but rather strategises on how to effectively meet that planned level of migration.

The Visa Rent policy utilises a market-driven mechanism: migrants pay a visa rent, the value of which is determined by market forces that balance visa supply and demand. This system ensures Australia attracts an optimal number of immigrants without overburdening services and infrastructure. It dynamically responds to global migration patterns and economic changes, maintaining balance. This approach has dual benefits: it aids migrants who experience significant improvement in their living standards or career opportunities by moving to Australia, and it encourages employers to offer competitive wages that account for the added visa rent cost. This ensures parity for Australian and overseas workers, preventing local wage undercutting through low-cost foreign labour. Students who come here on visa would no longer be forced to work limited hours a week - allowing them the freedom to contribute more to our economy and earn a livable wage. Workers on visa would no longer be tethered to a sponsor employer and thus can change employers to escape exploitative conditions. With the Visa Rent, migrants can stay as long as they like which negates the need for a Permanent Resident category and there's no longer an arbitrary need for visa holders to leave the country and come back under a separate visa application.

In addition, the Visa Rent policy generates a substantial, continuous revenue stream for the government. This revenue could be returned to Australian citizens as a Citizens Dividend, fostering economic equality by sharing immigration benefits with the entire community. In the steady state, the Visa Rent policy could accumulate up to $9.8 billion per year, based on 4.5 million non-citizens[165].

Transition to this system will be gradual and fair, with a ramp-up mechanism allowing migrants ample time to secure employment, adjust to living costs, and manage their finances effectively. It won't apply retrospectively to current visa and permanent resident (PR) holders, thus preserving their rights and providing certainty.

By fostering fair competition, inclusivity, and leveraging market forces, the Visa Rent policy exemplifies Australia's commitment to a diverse and prosperous society. It introduces an innovative immigration pathway that bolsters economic growth, upholds our tradition of supporting newcomers, and equitably shares migration benefits among Australians.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • Implement a visa rent system set at a level at which the demand for visas equals the supply of migration places.
    • Exempt student, tourist and humanitarian visas.

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Remove Religious Tax Concessions

Pirate Party Australia maintains that all organisations, irrespective of religious ties, should adhere to the same tax laws and regulations. We acknowledge that churches and other religious institutions currently enjoy tax concessions, including exemptions from land value taxes and rates. Although religious activities may offer certain societal benefits, these concessions are estimated to result in a significant shortfall in revenue for the Australian government.

We advocate for the abolition of all tax concessions for religious organisations, including exemptions from land value taxes and rates. All entities, religious or otherwise, should be subject to the same taxation criteria. We suggest the removal of the 'advancement of religion' as a charitable activity when determining tax exemption. However, exemptions should be retained for non-commercial income earned by religious organisations, provided they meet other qualifying categories for exemption, such as provision of charity or community service. Previous estimates by others [182] indicate these tax concessions could account for as much as $31 billion per year.

Pirate Party Australia proposes the following reforms:

  • 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.
    • Require qualifying charitable activities to be non-discriminatory against any marginalised group in terms of both recipient eligibility and the delivery mechanism.

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Reinstate the Commonwealth Employment Service

Rent-seeking in the employment services sector needs to be addressed. It is clear that the existing Job Active system is a dismal failure which handicaps job seekers more than it helps them, while syphoning off large amounts of public money for private profit.[183] The system has now reached breaking point, while costing $7.3 billion per year - half of which is spent on administration. The Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) was a vastly superior model by comparison and produced far better outcomes at much lower cost. At its peak, the CES handled 41% of job vacancies and had various specialised and experienced staff that served the unemployed well, while providing employers with a low cost "one stop shop" for workers. Small business has joined calls for a reinstatement of the CES, which would be more beneficial for them in finding staff.[184][185] The CES should be reinstated to replace Job Active and resume their previous responsibilities.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Reinstate the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES)

  • End rent seeking in the employment services industry by replacing Job Active with the CES.

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Distributed Digital Currencies

Distributed digital currencies such as Bitcoin[186] (also referred to as cryptocurrencies) are an emerging and potentially highly disruptive technology, and are the subject of numerous official inquiries around the world.[187][188][189][190] 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[191] 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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Sovereign Wealth Fund and Market-Based Resource Extraction Rights

The mining industry, vital to Australia's economy, brings forth significant environmental, land rights, and economic considerations. Addressing these intertwined issues requires a balance between economic viability and long-term sustainability.

Given that minerals are a finite resource, relying solely on the recurring income from taxation and royalties is not a sustainable long-term strategy. We foresee diminishing returns over time due to exhaustion of resources. To preserve the nation's wealth for future generations, we propose the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund, accruing the wealth generated from resource extraction. This fund will distribute only the returns on the principal, safeguarding the future prosperity of Australia.

Taxation, while necessary, often diminishes the taxed activities. Our goal in mining is not to curb employment or exploration, but to secure greater value from extraction. Hence, we propose a shift from fixed licensing to auctioning extraction rights to the highest bidder. This market-based approach fosters competition and reduces the risk of profit shifting. A reserve price set by the government will deter low-value projects, conserving resources for future use. To encourage exploration, a commission on the final auction price could be offered.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

  • Establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund from resource royalties

Addressing Negative Externalities through Targeted Taxation

The Pirate Party remains dedicated to the challenge of climate change and related environmental issues, viewing the implementation of a carbon tax as a primary policy tool. Our previous carbon tax implementation raised $15.4 billion, embodying a practical strategy to internalise the negative externalities from carbon emissions. This measure encourages both businesses and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint and to invest in cleaner technologies. Moreover, beyond carbon pollution, several other negative externalities merit the application of targeted taxation. These externalities and their respective fiscal interventions include:

  • Congestion Tax: To alleviate traffic congestion in heavily populated urban areas and stimulate the use of public transportation or carpooling, we propose a congestion tax. This levy would attribute a price to the external costs of congestion, such as time delays and heightened pollution, thus incentivising more efficient use of our roads.
  • Pay-as-you-throw Fee: A generalised pay-as-you-throw charge for waste disposal could effectively reduce waste generation and stimulate recycling and reuse. By holding households and businesses accountable for their waste output, we can incentivise waste reduction and foster more responsible consumption and production patterns.
  • Sugar Tax: To combat the negative externalities associated with high sugar consumption, we propose a tax on added sugar in beverages, to be levied on the manufacturer or importer. By increasing the price of such drinks, that tax would encourage ingredient lists to be reformulated to healthier levels and generate revenue to fund public health initiatives.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol Taxes: By levying higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol products, we can mitigate the negative externalities associated with their consumption, such as health issues and societal costs. These increased taxes could discourage consumption and help fund public health and addiction treatment programmes.

As Pirates, we endorse personal choice. It is not the intention of this section that we limit people's freedom to make choices, however, we would like to ensure people pay for the consequences of their choices towards others.

The revenue generated from these taxes will first be allocated towards initiatives that counter the respective negative externality. For instance, funds from the carbon tax could be directed towards carbon sequestration efforts. Should the collected tax exceed what is needed for these initiatives, the surplus will be invested into the Sovereign Wealth Fund. As these taxes are correcting behaviors whose costs often burden future generations, it is only just that the resulting revenue should benefit those future generations as well. This approach ensures that these taxes directly fund the rectification of the issues they aim to resolve, thereby eliminating the perverse incentive for the government to promote harmful behaviours for revenue collection. Furthermore, this strategy ensures that any remaining funds are invested prudently, providing a sustainable financial foundation for the future of Australia.

Additionally, the Pirate Party advocates for major industrial projects to be financially accountable for potential environmental impacts. We propose a requirement for these projects to secure an insurance policy covering potential environmental damage, or a bond that would finance environmental restoration if damage occurs. This policy ensures that the cost of environmental harm doesn't fall on taxpayers or future generations, while promoting responsible business operations. Such measures, along with our targeted taxation strategy, create a comprehensive approach to managing environmental externalities and preserving natural resources for future generations.

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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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Transport for a connected society

Transport networks shape the development of our cities and regions, and directly affect the quality of our daily lives as well as the cost structure of the economy. Australians suffer from the failures of successive governments to make adequate, long term plans to ensure timely maintenance, upgrading and expansion of our road and rail networks.[192] Pirate Party Australia supports the role of Infrastructure Australia as an independent statutory authority charged with assessing proposals, but decisions to invest public funds rest ultimately with elected governments.

We oppose private sector ownership (either outright or as long-term leases) for any part of the road or rail network, as well as for other natural monopolies such as telecommunication networks, power grids, and air- or sea-ports. Any use of private contractors must not detract from the primary objective of serving the public interest, and must not involve complex and opaque financial structures. Our preferred model is for publicly-owned network infrastructure to be provided on a non-profit basis, in contrast to the prevailing "tollbooth economy" model that drives up costs for individuals and businesses.[193]

Urban Transport

Mobility, or the lack thereof, is an important dimension of social disadvantage in our cities, as housing costs force poorer households to outer areas with inferior access to employment and services. Pirate Party Australia supports the use of land value taxation so that instead of private landowners receiving windfall financial gains from better infrastructure and services, the cost of such improvements can be recouped by the public purse and reinvested in new projects.

Traffic congestion imposes serious social and economic costs in areas of high population density. Although better road infrastructure has a role to play in alleviating this problem, in many cases the most cost-effective solutions will focus on improved public transport and a better deal for pedestrians and cyclists. Pirate Party Australia believes that public transport should be kept affordable, and optimised for wider social benefits, such as reducing traffic congestion, rather than for maximising revenue. The running costs and service standards should be bench-marked against comparable international cities. We support limited congestion charging in the central business districts of large cities, subject to strong privacy safeguards.

In Australia, the transport sector accounts for about 11% of greenhouse gas emissions, and is the major contributor to urban air pollution.[194] Electric or hybrid vehicles offer the most realistic option to improve air quality in the medium term. The average Australian car is nearly 10 years old, so a new car bought today might easily be on the road well into the 2030s. Pirate Party Australia therefore supports modest incentives to accelerate the initial uptake of electric cars, as well as tightening emission standards for conventional vehicles. We also advocate replacing diesel busses and trucks, which emit high levels of particulates and have poor fuel efficiency in stop-start travel, with electric alternatives as they become commercially available.

Regional and Long Distance Transport

Pirate Party Australia advocates expanding the capacity of rail freight to compete better with road transport, through investment in track upgrades and expansion, as well as improved intermodal facilities (rail/sea/road transfer). A shift from road to rail freight would provide environmental benefits in the form of lower greenhouse emissions and safety benefits for other road users.[195]

Many of our transport woes stem from rapid population growth that is concentrated in a handful of large cities. Better regional passenger rail services are an enabler for creating economic opportunities away from congested areas, improving the quality of life for all. Fibre to the premises internet is another such enabler, and one which can also reduce the need for work-related travel.


The transport system already generates a large volume of personal data, and this volume will grow rapidly as newer vehicles incorporate autonomous driving features. Although such data has great value for planning and managing transport networks, it also poses serious risks for privacy. Consistent with our policy for phone and internet data, we oppose warrant-less access to personal data generated by transport systems, and advocate strong digital security protections.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Deliver better infrastructure

  • Require state and federal governments to report to parliament justifying decisions to fund projects not rated highly on the IA Infrastructure Priority List well in advance of signing any contracts.
  • Stop further privatisation of roads, railways or other natural monopolies.
  • Use land value taxation to recoup public money invested in better transport and other services.
  • Install fixed emergency power outlets on arterial roads as well as upgrade of emergency road support vehicles to cater to expected increase in electric vehicles.

Manage urban transport

  • Benchmark public transport running costs and service quality against those in other OECD countries.
  • Optimise fare structures to reduce road congestion, not to maximise revenue.
  • Invest in active transport options.
  • Phase out permanent taxi licences and replace with annual permits.

Enable greener Transport

  • Apply tighter emission standards for new vehicles, compatible with EU rules.
  • Upgrade and expand regional rail services.
  • Apply distance-based registration fees for heavy vehicles to provide full cost recovery, including externalities.
  • Begin transition of city bus fleets from diesel to electric.
  • Provide subsidies for early electric vehicle sales to encourage establishment of electric vehicle infrastructure.

Privacy protections for private and public transport users

  • Prevent data capture from number plates or e-tags without express permission of a vehicle's driver.
  • Delete billing data within one month of payment.
  • Use strong cryptographic security to protect anonymity of drivers and public transport users in the absence of a surveillance warrant.

Commence legalising of driverless vehicles

  • Legalise driverless vehicles for testing purposes and establish a process for full legalisation of driverless cars in the future.

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Climate change and Energy

Decades of scientific research shows a clear consensus that human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is changing the earth’s climate. The science also shows that this change is pushing the earth’s climate into a state that will make life on earth more difficult and costly.[196]

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.

Fossil fuels do not merely generate greenhouse gases: particulate air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills millions[197][198] of people each year and generates massive volumes of toxic waste.[199][200][201][202][203][204] Replacement of fossil fuels with cleaner technology thus offers us an opportunity to improve human well-being and the environment.

Australia is well positioned for this transition. We have robust wind and solar resources, have very high known uranium and thorium reserves, and have few land use conflicts so far and vast coastlines which provide good site locations for various clean energy technologies.

Australian households have already shown a desire to adopt clean energy technology with the adoption of rooftop solar being one of the highest in the world. Electric vehicle uptake too is increasing as new infrastructure becomes available and the technology matures. Governments should be supporting this uptake wherever it is economic to do so.

The current energy market has shown itself to be a failure and there is desperate need for reform. This failure was clear during 2022 when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had to suspend[205] the entire National Electricity Market (NEM) to avoid major blackouts across 5 States. A reform process must be undertaken to ensure supply and root out rent seeking and profiteering within Australia’s energy system.

Pirate Party regards a fixed carbon price as important. Predictable pricing provides the certainty which long-term investment requires,[206][207] and would create a mechanism for energy efficiency and innovation all across the economy. Environmental externalities represent a form of privatised profits and socialised losses, which a properly run economy should reject. Pirate Party Australia endorses existing climate policies in the absence of a more efficient alternative. However, a holistic price on carbon and measures to support technology and competition represent the best model for long-term improvement in our energy systems.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

  • Enact measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and to zero net emissions by 2050.
  • Remove legislative prohibitions on the use of nuclear energy, nuclear fuel fabrication and reprocessing, and uranium mining, while retaining prohibitions on weapons-grade processing and abiding by nuclear non-proliferation agreements.
  • Re-purpose the 'Climate Solutions Fund' to support 'blue sky' research into alternative climate solutions, such as carbon drawdown technology, small modular reactors, nuclear fusion, and food additives to reduce farm emissions.
  • Increase the Clean Energy Finance Corporation investment to $50B annually and expand it to support loans for community power start-up costs and grid connections, and nuclear energy.
  • Remove the GST on energy and substitute a carbon price based on the successful 2014-15 model.
  • Apply a price on exported carbon to purchase carbon offsets through the UN clean development mechanism.
  • Remove waste levy exemptions currently applying to coal power.
  • Adopt current EU standards for vehicle fuel efficiency and energy efficiency in consumer goods and buildings.
  • Remove taxes on electric vehicles.
  • Work to adopt a universal plug for electric vehicles.

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Land management and ecology

A healthy and vibrant ecosystem is crucial for our quality of life, and ultimately for our future on this planet. Sadly, Australia has among the worst extinction rates of any continent despite our low human population[208]. This partly reflects well-known problems with invasive species, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change[209]. Less well understood are the policy failures that have made these issues much harder to address.

Environmental work can take significant time and planning. Rewilding of degraded ecosystems is complex, requiring long-term active management to prevent new waves of invasive species from attacking vulnerable and plant and animal populations. Species restoration is similarly complex, often requiring vulnerable species to be protected in sanctuaries, or on islands and fenced-off peninsulas until their numbers can recover, with recovered populations serving as a base for gradual re-introductions across the wider ecosystem[210]. The short term funding cycle and regular cancellation of environmental programs make it difficult to achieve long-term progress in such complex and long-term work.

Pirate Party Australia believes a longer-term approach is needed. Rather than drip-feed funding year by year, environmental grants need to be scaled up to the challenge and provided over longer time-frames to enable proper planning and co-ordination. Pirate Party Australia would establish an ecology fund based the best scientific estimates of resourcing needs. The fund would be overseen by experts, and would have a mandate to provide long-term grants for scientific research and community-driven environmental work. Endowments should be set aside to support a permanent regional workforce to engage in large-scale rewilding and habitat restoration around Australia. Pirate Party Australia would also ensure that successful initiatives such as the Indigenous Rangers program are expanded and funded permanently, ending a cycle of insecurity and ensuring the cultural knowledge of our first people is properly valued and preserved.

For less than the the price of a new submarine fleet, Australia could ensure that our priceless ecology is restored to health and preserved for future generations. We simply need the political will to make it happen.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Implement a biodiversity strategy and long-term funding model.

  • Appoint an expert panel to estimate resource needs for an integrated set of environmental programs encompassing habitat restoration and large-scale 're-wilding', preservation of endangered species, scientific research including 'blue sky' initiatives, specific needs for areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, and other initiatives driven by communities and conservation groups.
    • New responsibilities would also include strategic regional planning and reporting on national environmental performance. The commission would also develop enforceable national, regional, threat abatement and species level conservation plans.
  • Replace year-to-year grants with a 20 year funding model, with options to top-up in the future.
  • Establish an endowment to expand and permanently fund the Indigenous Rangers Program.

Strengthen existing environmental protections.

  • Expand the environmental oversight of the federal government to cover mining approvals, water resources, protected areas, land clearing, climate change and air pollution.
  • Establish an Environmental Protection Authority with independent statutory status to areas overseeing environmental approvals, inquiries, monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
  • Increase biosecurity funding by $20 million each year to prevent more invasive species from entering the country.
  • Grant farmers an explicit right to refuse exploitation of coal and coal seam gas deposits on land they own.
  • 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.

Disaster Relief Fund

Create a disaster relief fund to support those affected by climate change, particularly farmers, and to enable a timely response to any nationally declared disaster by the Prime Minister.

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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.[211] 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.[212]

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.[213] 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.[214] 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.[215]

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 abuse.[216]

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[217] 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[218], 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.[219]

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.[220] 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.[221] 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 [222] 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[223] and Journey to Social Inclusion.[224]
  • 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,[225] and specifically WPATH[226] with practice guidelines sourced from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.[227]
    • 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.[228]

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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.[229] The total net expenditure on corrective services alone was approximately $3 billion between 2007 and 2008 — $138 for every person in Australia.[230]

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.[231] 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.[232] 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.[233] 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.[234]

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.[235]

Do longer sentences reduce crime?

Longer sentences do deter crime — up to a point.[236] There is strong evidence that increasing the certainty of punishment deters crime,[237] 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.[238]

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.[239] 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.[240] 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'[241].

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.[242][243]
  • 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

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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,[244] 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,[245] 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.[246] In producer countries, the illegal market has enriched drug cartels, causing thousands of deaths every year,[247] 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,[248] nor is any decline evident in Australia.[249] Results among individual nations show no correlation between drug use levels and the harshness of drug laws.[250]

The remedy

The experience of Portugal—where decriminalisation led to an observable fall in addiction and deaths[251]—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[252] 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.[260] 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".[261]

Recent preferential trade deals have included protectionist poison pills in the form of stronger IP laws, which open the way to corporate rent-seeking[262] and inflated prices for essentials such as medicine.[263][264] Other preferential trade deals have contained mandates for monitoring of internet use and surveillance,[265] or have introduced new rights for corporations to sue governments.[266].

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.[267]

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.[268]
  • 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.[269] 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').[270] 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[271][272][273] 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)[274]. 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,[275] large and vulnerable warships,[276] 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[277] 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.[278][279] 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[280].
    • Ensure the Defence Trade Controls Act[281] 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[282] 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[283] 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.[284][285]
    • 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. [286]
  • 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[287][288] 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,[289] 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).[290]

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:[291]
    • 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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