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Official Party Document
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Declaration of platform and principles

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

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

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

Our policies focus on opening up space for creative civil society rather than expanding the state: consequently, the financial cost of our reforms is minimal and wholly offset by savings encompassed within the policies themselves. As part of an international movement, we seek not only to reform national laws, but to reform perceptions and effect worldwide change. We seek to bring about change democratically, through activism, lobbying and parliamentary elections.

Civil liberties

Civil liberties are the core of civil society and an essential balance to state power. History records a long fight for liberty, with even basic rights such as freedom from slavery, freedom of speech and freedom from torture won with great difficulty and frequent reverses. As individuals have become more empowered in the digital age, co-operation and trust between citizens and the state has become increasingly important, and respect for liberty is crucial to maintenance of this trust. The historical truism that security is not won through the sacrifice of liberties has never been more true than in the digital age.

Freedom of speech and related rights

The greatest reformers, scientists and philosophers in history started out as heretics. The right to speak out against dogma and consensus underpinned the enlightenment and built a world in which ideas could be attacked in place of people. Speech is a fundamental human right and the safeguard for all other liberties. It protects not just our right to speak out, but our related right to hear and judge ideas. It underpins our ability to think, create, innovate and progress.

Censorship is the wrong response to offensive expression. Advocates of censorship often treat ‘hate speech’ (however defined) as so powerful that its mere expression must be prevented. Counter-speech is seen in the opposite light – so powerless that only censorship can balance the scales. Historically, though, the opposite is true: racism and other offensive ideas lost the most currency in the freest societies. More speech has long proven to be the best antidote to hate speech. Censorship laws are counter-productive because they undermine the process of debate and education, are highly prone to abuse, and inject dangerous subjectivity in the legal system.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Governments given the power to criminalise opinions rarely stop at one,[7] and as views change, laws which gag speech can all too easily become a technique for repression of minority opinion. History has long shown the folly of belief in the idea that censorship - which has underpinned state oppression throughout history - can be an answer to oppression today. The failure of states such as the Weimar Republic (which operated under a morass of hate speech laws) show the terrible risks of pushing hateful speech underground instead of exposing it to debate.

Pirate Parties around the world oppose censorship as an ineffective, dangerous and counter-productive practice. Laws which restrict speech, thought, conscience and assembly must be subject to consultation, measurement of costs and benefits, and a meaningful assessment of threats. Fundamental principles warrant evidence-based policy.


It is important that our legal system err on the side of civil rights and free speech. Recent counter-terror laws which weaken the burden of proof and loosen thresholds for detention, search or seizure represent a threat on this front, [8] and Pirate Party Australia has long called for their removal.

Australian courts should also be required to apply stronger journalist shield laws, since the absence of sufficient protections poses a significant threat to press freedom.[9][10] Protections need to cover not just sources, but the informational content which sources pass on, and which may be used to identify them. The power of inquiries to publicly expose sources should also be curbed since such compulsion threatens the very forms of journalistic investigation which have so often been essential to inquiries launching in the first place.

We believe the legal system should embody the secular principle of one law for all, applied to all persons equally. The Pirate Party does not support parallel legal systems and other forms of law which impose differential standards on different groups.


Privacy is an essential underpinning of human dignity and free expression. 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. A free society cannot function without the protection of a person's private life, and intrusive surveillance is toxic to trust.

For this reason, recent privacy-invading laws governing compulsory metadata collection must be reversed (see digital liberties policy). In addition, we believe a higher threshold of privacy needs to be codified across the totality of laws in Australia. This can be done by introducing tougher legislative requirements for organisations retaining data, and improving options available to individuals seeking to protect their personal privacy. We will seek to support this further by introducing a new tort to cover intrusions into seclusion and misuse of private information.

Control over the body

No liberty is more fundamental than the right to live free of pain and physical torment. Support for voluntary euthanasia is not a statement of any kind on the value of life. It is merely respect for choice, and for the right of persons to make decisions for themselves in 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. Political office should not be be used to force private religious views onto other people. Bans on voluntary euthanasia create a painful legacy of suffering, lost dignity, and the sacrifice of choice.

Digital liberties

The grassroots nature of the Internet is causing considerable disruption to traditional power structures.[11][12][13][14] 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.[15]

Attempts to control the Internet take different forms over time, but all are justified through references to crime and other undesirable activities. They also all share one critical flaw: they are easily evaded by those with technical knowledge. They ultimately reduce the freedoms of the public while doing nothing to curb criminal behaviour. The Pirate Party will always defend the founding principles of the Internet, and resist any and all attempts to control it. A fast and free Internet, open to all, is a safeguard not just for our economy and culture, but for our basic rights.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a fundamental principle behind the development of the Internet. It ensures that the Internet is free and open to all by preventing gatekeepers from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down content based on the source, destination or owner. Net Neutrality guarantees that even the smallest entrepreneurs have the same access standards as established firms.[16] The absence of such a guarantee would represent a perpetual threat to generations of new entrants.

Content providers and ISPs have undermined net neutrality by seeking to differentiate among different forms of information and data flow, and impose priorities. Abandoning Net Neutrality and subjecting Internet traffic to a commercial veto will hurt competition and innovation, and allow service providers to preference or block protocols and force consumers to use less desirable options.

Free, open and non-discriminatory access to the Internet is essential for our democracy and for our economic well-being and the Pirate Party will seek the adoption of clear net neutrality principles to protect the Internet from the introduction of any discriminatory practices.

Data retention

Surveillance of the public is expanding constantly, and has reached a point which threatens essential trust between the state and the citizen.[17][18]

Recent legislation has been forced through parliament which expands surveillance beyond anything seen before. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill obliges ISPs to spy on their customers and retain telephone and Internet data for 2 years. This is a gross invasion of privacy and will create a vast database of material, which a range of agencies will be able to access freely and without any warrant. The database will pose little threat to criminal activity, since many technical avenues currently exist through which data retention can be avoided. However, metadata provides an immense amount of information on the most private and intimate details of innocent people's lives, and access is currently unchecked by any meaningful oversight. Free expression and the normal conduct of society are unacceptably curtailed when people can have no expectations of privacy and separation from the state.

This comes on top of recent revelations showing that Australians are already subject to an array of secret, warrantless spying on emails, chats, photographs, documents and website addresses.[19][20][21] Such spying again poses little threat to terrorists: terrorist forums are not indexed by most search engines and do not inhabit the servers targeted by the PRISM program.[22] However, mass-trawling of personal data poses a significant threat to the liberties of the global public. Unrestricted surveillance of the public combined with total obscurity for the state is untenable. Far more legitimacy, trust, and effectiveness will be earned by applying proper oversight and inbuilt protections for civil liberties, including proper use of warrants.


Internet censorship proposals create a permanent infrastructure for web blocking, and connect it to a permanently shifting category of banned content. The RC classification has been altered frequently by parliament and has become patchwork and inconsistent.[23] We believe that the government should look to adequately funding law enforcement, removing illegal content and prosecuting those responsible for the manufacture of the material, rather than funding a filter that slows connection speeds, is liable to wrongly block websites and is easily circumvented.

Households may choose censorship programs for their own use, but that is the prerogative of parents: they must be permitted to make decisions for their own families, and the government should trust them to do so responsibly.

New copyright-based censorship proposals come on top of existing, secret web blocking mechanisms. Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act has been used by officials to block access to around 250,000 legitimate websites to date, with no application of oversight and accountability.[24][25][26] We believe the rampant misuse of this provision warrants its removal, with any replacement clause to be subject to proper consultation and higher legislative standards.

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.


Copyright laws are a statutory monopoly artificially applied to information and culture that are traditionally justified as a balance between the rights of content creators and the rights of society. Properly applied, such laws encourage creative output by providing a limited monopoly for artists and writers over the use and distribution of their work. On expiry of copyright (which originally lasted for 28 years) work entered the public domain to be used and built on by others.

The overreach of copyright

In recent times the essential balance underlying copyright law has been lost, and a mechanism intended to serve the interests of the general public is now threatening fundamental rights and cultural growth. Copyright duration has been repeatedly extended, and now persists for 70 years after the death of the original creator. This massive duration is actively harmful for the creative community,[27] because it kills the flow of material to the public domain, denying the opportunity to draw on it. Perpetual copyright benefits only large businesses, and encourages them to reuse old content rather than undertake relatively risky and expensive investments in new material.

Higher duration has been paired up with increasingly draconian enforcement. Enforcement of copyright has encroached into the realm of non-commercial use—a recipe for abuse of the general public. Individuals are now being prevented from listening to public radio,[28][29] or fined millions of dollars for downloading a handful of songs.'[30] Community groups and charities have been threatened with legal action for allowing children to perform Christmas carols,[31] and corporations are preventing access to public footage of historical events.[32][33] The rights of the general public are being trampled in the name of protecting obsolete, rent-seeking business models.[34]

Seeking to defend their behaviour, lobbyists and corporate interests have adopted terms like ‘piracy’ and ‘theft’. However, when normal behaviour such as culture sharing is criminalised, everyone is a pirate. The Pirate Party has adopted the term to draw attention to this fact, and to focus attention on threats to a range of fundamental rights:

  • Privacy has been directly undermined by attempts to force ISPs to monitor private communications in the name of copyright enforcement.
  • Participation in the free market is threatened by copyright bills such as SOPA and PIPA, which would have granted US copyright holders unilateral power to shut down the websites of other businesses anywhere in the world on the basis of an allegation that the site "enabled" copyright infringement.[35]
  • The presumption of innocence is taken away by ‘three strikes’ or ‘graduated response’ laws which allow Internet users to be disconnected by copyright holders upon an allegation and without fair trial or due process.[36][37]
  • Free speech is similarly threatened by compulsory disconnection. The Constitution contains an implied guarantee of freedom of communication in relation to political matters, which the High Court has determined is essential to the proper functioning of Australian democracy. Disconnection interferes with the right to assembly and political communication, and violates the Constitution as well as High Court determinations and international covenants. The Internet is essential for everything from financial affairs to childhood education, and laws enabling disconnection are a frontal assault on free speech and modern life.
  • Consumer rights are being eroded as technology becomes increasingly crippled though measures such as Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM can be a prelude to surreptitious surveillance and unauthorised data collection. It cripples culture and knowledge distribution, and is an electronic equivalent of a barbed wire fence around data consumers rightfully own.
  • Access to our cultural heritage is jeopardised by the (thus far) successful campaign to impose a ‘forever less one day’[38] period of copyright duration. All copyrighted works are, to some extent, based on or inspired by prior work. Modern attempts to combine perpetual duration with the prevention of reuse and remixing threaten the mechanisms of progress and impose restrictions that creators have never faced before. They amount to a strangling of the creative process.

Reforming copyright

Placing copyright law in direct opposition to fundamental rights guarantees failure. File and culture sharing are, predictably, continuing to grow in defiance of all attempts to control it,[39] and recent attempts to impose additional enforcement were crushed by determined opposition in the European parliament and US Congress. People have always shared poetry, music and culture, and modern copyright laws fail because they attempt to criminalise innate human behaviour.

Copyright is changing, and we are seeing a completely new and different social understanding of copyright – a generational shift in the way we relate to and participate in culture. It is thus concerning that the Australian government has announced an intention to consider imposing the thoroughly discredited ‘three strikes’ disconnection model on Australian Internet users. Copyright was written to serve the needs of the general public, and this purpose is not accomplished by criminalising an entire generation. Fundamental rights do not need to be “balanced” with copyright enforcement.

A copyright law for our time must combine the balanced approach of the past with recognition of the situation we confront in the present. Normal interactions in the digital sphere should no longer be monitored or threatened. The digital realm offers artists and creators vast new opportunities for exposure, free of old-fashioned limits on distribution, and the overwhelming weight of research shows that file sharing has not reduced revenue to artists.[40][41][42] The law should account for this. Copyright duration should also be contained to around 15 years — which is calculated to be the optimal term to drive maximum creative endeavour.[43] Creative remixing and reuse of existing content must be allowed, as preventing them is equivalent to attacking freedom and progress itself.

Cultural participation

Culture is at the heart of human identity. From the cave paintings to the poetry that was copied and sent to soldiers in the trenches, culture has been something shared - a social glue and a bond between individuals and their societies. Shared expression creates shared experience and values and has allowed the human race to progress.

In modern times, technology changed the way in which culture was produced and experienced [44]. 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 increasingly control and restrict access. Laws around intellectual property grew which treated culture as something to be restricted, monetised and controlled by vested interests. As technology progressed however, the ability to mass produce in the digital realm has shifted cultural modes back to their historical norms [45], opening the way to a boom of grass roots cultural production and a golden age of shared experience and artistic production.

Attempts by some to freeze in place the centralism and artificial scarcity which governed culture in the 20th century will fail [46], because cultural sharing is an innate part of human experience and human nature. In addition, the damage to the cultural commons as a result of 20th century copyright policy is enormous [47], as is the cost for dealing with it [48]. However, it creates a question which must be taken seriously: where culture is freely available, how will artists be paid and supported? Artists, writers and film-makers are a critical part of society, and revenue must be available to encourage the creation of new and derivative creative materials for society’s benefit.

Pirate Party Australia believes this can be facilitated in several ways. Pirate Party supports a basic income guarantee which will provide a universal support to artists. This can be built on with a wave of investment to create new cultural hubs for the community. These new hubs will expand the role currently played by libraries [49] and provide free facilities for creation of music and art [50]. They will also be places where legal obstacles such as digital rights management restrictions can be overcome. Many obsolete forms of Digital Rights Management (DRM) hamper archivists who seek to engage in digital archiving and preservation of physical and museum content [51]. To directly support artistic creation, we will also establish a new fund to sponsor artists and invest in the creation of films, literature and visual art. Finally, we will seek to provide smaller live music and performance venues with tax breaks as a way to reverse the decline in such facilities and recognise their cultural importance.

We will also stand firmly behind public broadcasting in Australia. Pirate Party Australia will oppose any attempt to sabotage the independence and broadcasting standards of the ABC. The ABC is one of Australia's few highly trusted institutions [52]. Its capacity to reach a diverse national audience and its high focus on 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 would be undesirable for anyone who supports independent media and the growth of Australian culture.

Open, participatory culture and investment in our artists will unleash a creative boom for Australia.


Thoughts and ideas cannot be “owned” as natural property. Patent laws do, however, grant a temporary monopoly over an expression of an idea. This trades a reduction in free access for a greater incentive to disclose and develop ideas.

However, as the information age has reshaped society, patents have become increasingly anachronistic and inadequate in fulfilling their intended purpose. The original twenty-year patent duration was codified at a time when ideas and products took years to spread.[53] It is out of step in a world where products can be developed and marketed to millions of people in a space of weeks, and most credible research now favours a significantly shorter term.[54] The disconnect between patent laws and modern life is worsened by rampant abuse of the patent system. Hoarders and patent trolls are using patents to force creators and inventors to pay additional costs or face litigation – a use that undermines the creation process patents were meant to protect.

Modernising the patent system

Monopolies on ideas are not natural – they are created by the state. While interventions in the free market are sometimes necessary, it is important that they serve the public interest, and reflect the best research. A reduction in patent duration is now clearly overdue, and this should be paired up with explicit protection for public research. Since patents were introduced on the basis of enabling products to be developed, we believe that legal defence of any patent should require the litigant to prove they are using it. Patent law should also permit independent development of the same invention.

Taken together, these measures will curb the incentive to register trivial and defensive patents. This should reduce the quantity of patents, and improve the quality.

Software patents

Patents on programs must reflect the uniquely dynamic nature of the software industry, and durations should be shorter than those applying to other patent types. Functional claiming (which patents the end result of software) should be abolished, as it removes the capacity for the free market to create newer and better approaches.[55][56][57][58] A larger fee should also apply for software patents to fund additional scrutiny and a raising of the threshold for obviousness and prior art.

Genes and organisms

“Products of nature” are explicitly not patentable under first principles of patent law. However, patents on human genes have been granted on the basis that extraction of material from its natural environment is akin to having invented it.[59][60]This is an absurd legal artifice that, if applied in other fields, would lead to patents on coal, cotton, and wood.

The granting of monopolies over human genes is a particularly destructive form of corporate welfare because it allows private interests to lock away fundamental information about our bodies. Essential research is being hindered by the obligation to negotiate among dozens of gene patent holders, who bear no obligation to contribute to research themselves.[61][62] Gene patent holders are imposing huge costs on sick and dying patients for simple tests and treatments.[63] Curbing these practices requires no more than a return of patent law to first principles, which provide no basis for patents on genes and organisms.

Pharmaceutical patents

Pharmaceutical patents fall into two categories: patents on a process for creating a drug, and patents on a drug itself. Process patents may encourage companies to seek alternative and better ways to produce a desired outcome.[64][65] However, drug patents have the reverse effect, shutting down free market competition which might otherwise drive improved techniques.

Drug patents are typically justified by the assertion that a strong incentive is needed to support the long and complex research and development cycle for drugs. While drug research is important, patents are a flawed method for accomplishing it, for two primary reasons:

  • The price problem: A guarantee of a twenty-year monopoly on a drug removes any necessity to compete on quality or price. Very high prices result, and since a large number of drugs qualify for the pharmaceutical benefit scheme (PBS) the government is ultimately forced to fund the monopolies it has created, to the tune of billions of dollars a year (the cost of patented medicines in the F1 category of the PBS rose by more than a third between 2005–06 and 2009–10).[66] The situation is worse in developing nations where high prices demanded by patent holders deny impoverished people access to lifesaving medicine.[67][68][69]
  • The incentive problem: A cure for a condition can only be sold once, but a temporary fix can be sold repeatedly. Drug patents thus contain a structural incentive to engage in the wrong kinds of research. Consequently, only around two per cent of new active ingredients and applications devised by drug companies are considered to make real medical progress.[70][71] This means that only a small proportion of taxpayer revenue directed to drug companies ultimately funds genuinely useful research. Firms in China and the US also subject Australia to many dubious and harmful patents, imposing additional barriers on potentially useful research.[72][73]

Drug patents are ultimately far too indirect and unreliable to work as a platform for something as vital as medical research. An alternative approach is needed. We propose the abolition of drug patents: this will allow the PBS to make use of generic drugs, freeing up significant funds which can be redirected towards publicly funded medical research. This research can target critical areas and ensure the development of meaningful cures. Drugs developed with public funds will enter the public domain where generic manufacturers compete on price and quality in a free market. The resulting drugs can be provided at low cost to consumers, and exported as aid to impoverished countries unable to afford monopoly drugs.

Funding will also be directed towards a trial ‘bounty’ system in which rewards are offered for the creation of drugs that serve an identified public good. Private research in this model will target areas not covered by public research, adding breadth to the system and reducing pressure on public research infrastructure. We will also seek to negotiate a new biomedical treaty, which would include a global bounty system to replace drug patents worldwide.[74][75] Taken together, these measures will grant a far greater role for the free market than exists in the current monopoly system. They will provide a broader research platform and cheaper drugs built in accord with the right incentives.


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".[76]

Billions of dollars have been allocated to the Asset Recycling Fund, which provides incentive payments to states to encourage the sale of public assets. Pirate Party Australia would re-purpose some of this funding and invest it directly in Australian science and education. We will also enact reforms to make the benefits of education and research more available to the community.

Early childhood education

Early childhood education is crucial to a child's development in later life. We will seek to provide a means for parents to play a greater role in childcare by trialling a system of childcare cooperatives based on successful overseas models.[77] 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. This will provide social opportunities to new families and their children, and will also reduce pressure on the existing childcare system.

School education

The principle of free, secular and compulsory schooling held sway for decades in Australia. However, recent changes have shifted the funding balance away from public schools, and towards private and religious schools.[78] Justified in the name of choice, this change has actually reduced choices for many by leaving entire postcodes lacking any comprehensive public schooling.[79] The growth of taxpayer funded private schools is creating a two-tiered system in which students from families unable to pay private school fees are concentrated in the increasingly under-funded public system. The cost of this is evident in Australia's low and falling ranking in global measures of performance among disadvantaged students.[80][81] Private schooling also reduces academic performance in other ways: students are increasingly segregated along religious lines, and increasing numbers of taxpayer-funded religious schools are actively refusing to meet educational standards in areas such as science education.[82]

Pirate Party Australia believes that the flow of taxpayer funding towards religious and private schools should be checked. A return of private school funding to the 1996 level will free sufficient funds to fully implement Gonski recommendations in the public system. At the same time, we will seek to make public schools more accountable to their communities. Centralised micro-management needs to be reduced, and control over administration, hiring and funding vested in principals and school boards, with boards made open to parents. We will also seek to trial a funding mechanism to allow schools to 'bulk-bill' costs of after-school instruction so that qualified experts can be engaged to teach in areas of interest chosen by students and parents. This will allow public schools to offer niche and special-interest education, and provide more tools to overcome disadvantage.

Pirate Party Australia will increase the focus on teaching life skills and entrepreneurialism to students prior to Year 10. We will also seek to reduce some of the institutional pressure placed on students to remain at school after Year 10, since forcing unwilling students to stay ultimately leads to the disruption of more engaged students. Students wishing to study at TAFE after Year 10 will be enabled to do so, with student funding following them.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education is increasingly important as we 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. This manifests in various ways: approximately half of academics have been assessed to be at risk of psychological illness due to insecurity and overwork,[83] while two thirds believe academic freedom is being curtailed.[84] 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 one which has led to increasing stultification and surveillance, with demands for corporate style messaging eating away academic freedom of speech. The drive towards pseudo-measurement of educational outcomes has imposed unprecedented administrative costs, with administrators and managers now outnumbering academics (who nonetheless face increasing demands to conduct administration).

The impacts of corporatised education are uniformly contrary to what is intended. 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.[85] 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.[86]

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 expand the current shift towards digital education. Digital education is an important resource for the poor, for people in remote locations, and carers and people with disabilities.

Fundamentally, we view education as a pillar of civil society rather than a money making commodity, and believe 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.

Science and research

The knowledge and advancement gained through science is fundamental to human well-being and the emergence of modern society. Most economic growth in modern societies is the product of advances in science and technology, and OECD research suggests public investment in science pays off many times over. Businesses[87] and leading scientists have long called for Australia to adopt a national Science Plan[88][89]. Australia is the only OECD nation to lack one, and researchers in this country face a crippling combination of under-funding, poor collaboration among research bodies, and erratic grant periods. A Science Plan provides a useful mechanism for addressing these issues and laying out a foundation for long-term and collaborative research. It will also provide a pathway for more effective resourcing and a broadening of our research profile into areas such as space research which offer potentially enormous benefits.[90]

Efforts are also needed to address Australia's very poor record of business and educational collaboration.[91] Overseas experience suggests voucher programs represent one of the best ways to address issues of this kind. These programs release vouchers to small businesses, which they can use to purchase services from education and research bodies.[92] Vouchers are then paid out by the government. This both raises overall research funding and encourages long-term relationship building between sectors. 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. [93] [94]

Reform of democratic institutions

Australia’s governance is facing a crisis of confidence. The parliament and the public service are becoming increasingly disconnected from society, even as political dialog and debate take on an increasingly scripted and toxic tone. The loss of public trust and respect threatens greater disengagement - a vicious cycle which needs to be met with determined efforts to restore accountability and trust to our democratic institutions.

Public integrity and trust rely on the public right to be informed about decisions taken on their behalf. This principle finds practical application in Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation.[95][96] Pirate Party Australia supports this legislation, but believes more can be done to enhance its effectiveness. A significant barrier to truly effective FoI laws is created through the application of blanket exemptions based on arbitrary judgments of relevance or on which authority claims ownership of the documents. While exemptions must exist, we believe they should be narrower, time limited, and justified by a higher threshold of due cause. This will provide not only greater faith in the FoI system, but a higher level of accountability and trust across all levels of government.

Another pillar of public integrity is the capacity to swiftly identify and manage wrongdoing and corruption. Whistleblowers are an essential part of this capacity, and an important check on potential abuses of power. Repeated instances of harsh and inappropriate punishment and covert forms of deterrence over the past 10 years provide a strong case for improving the robustness of whistleblower protections.[97] It is past time that whistleblowers gained the essential freedom to speak out without fear of undue reprisal, and with reasonable confidence that wrongs will be righted.

Transparency also requires periodic reviews of public sector spending and processes, and we accordingly support moves to conduct a comprehensive audit process. Also, since the state is funded by all citizens, we believe that services provided by the state and its authorized service providers should be offered subject to a firm principle of non-discrimination.

Institutional improvement should be accompanied by a lifting in political standards. Political conduct and dialogue in Australia is generally reckoned to be at a low ebb. Some improvement can be made by applying greater standards of openness with regard to the movement of money within the political system. However we also highlight the need for proper scrutiny of public spending: it should no longer be acceptable to shut down such scrutiny through the use of commercial-in-confidence clauses.[98]

Finally, we propose urgent measures to improve political conduct during elections. The election process is presently riddled with political manipulation of a type inconsistent with a healthy democracy. Instituting fixed terms removes one form of direct manipulation, but a better standard of political dialogue is also essential. Elections as conducted encourage a reliance on talking points and scripts which hide agendas, spread misinformation, and deny meaningful dialogue. A proper debate process modeled on the US approach will create a setting in which politicians are obliged to communicate meaningfully and respectfully with other and with the public. The addition of new voices to policy debates should also be encouraged, and Pirate Party Australia pledges to do all it can to support participation by restoring candidate fees to a reasonable level, and opposing recent legislation intended to prevent candidates from competing in elections.

Bill of Rights

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 poses risks to privacy, free speech and individual choice. A bill of rights is overdue as a way to 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.[99] The Pirate Party proposal incorporates the most fundamental and essential elements of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[100] the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[101] and the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[102]

Constitutional reform

The Constitution of Australia has been amended only eight times[103] since it came into force in 1901. It was drafted in the final decade of the Nineteenth Century and contains many flaws that reflect the cultural attitudes of the time.[104] The Australian Constitution can only be amended through a referendum, and Pirate Party Australia is committed to putting the following constitutional reforms on the agenda.

An Australian Bill of Rights

The Pirate Party supports the introduction of a constitutional Bill of Rights in Australia — view details.

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,[105] at the supranational level in the European Union,[106] Finland,[107] all German states,[108] Hungary,[109] Italy,[110] Latvia,[111], Lichtenstein,[112] Lithuania,[113] New Zealand,[114] Poland,[115] Portugal,[116] Spain,[117] Switzerland,[118] several states of the United States[119] and Uruguay.[120]

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,[121] 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.[122] 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.

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.[123] However, numerous indigenous societies have faced virtual destruction as a consequence of discrimination,[124] paternalism,[125] genocide,[126] as well as the introduction of diseases,[127] substance abuse,[128] slavery[129] and dependency on the state.[130] Families have been broken up,[131] and discrimination in the criminal justice system[132] 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)[133] overturned the doctrine of terra nullius that was used to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.[134] 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.[135] 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.[136] 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.[137] 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.[138] 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."[139]

It is against this backdrop that the Pirate Party supports the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for a single referendum to repeal the 'race provisions' in the Australian Constitution (Sections 25 and 51(xxvi)), recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the original inhabitants and their languages as the original languages, and to include an explicit prohibition of racial discrimination.[140] The Pirate Party agrees that, although there is still a long way to go, "constitutional recognition would provide a foundation to bring the 2.5 per cent [of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples] and the 97.5 per cent [of non-indigenous Australians] together, in a spirit of equality, recognition and respect, and contribute to a truly reconciled nation for the benefit of all Australians."[141]

Tax and welfare

Australia's tax and welfare systems have grown so complicated that they are almost impossible to understand.[142] Our tax system has grown to encompass more than 120 taxes[143], and the complexity conceals growing distortions which favour speculation and hurt work and saving.[144] It also imposes huge inefficiencies, forcing more than two thirds of taxpayers to file returns through tax agents.[145] and imposing deadweight losses of over $20 billion on the economy every year.[146]

The welfare system faces similar problems: it has grown in ad-hoc fashion to encompass more than 20 separate payments, each with different means tests, sub-payments, administrative arrangements and compliance regimes.[147] Administrative costs for tax and welfare run to over $5 billion annually, and over $80 billion is "churned" (collected as tax and then returned to the same taxpayers as welfare) each year. Recipients leaving welfare for work often face a combination of large benefit cuts and income tax, which can lead to effective losses of more than 70% of earned income.[148] Our systems thus punish the drive to be self-sufficient,[149] and radical change is needed to prevent the growth of inter-generational poverty in Australia.

Basic income through reverse taxation

The advance of digital technology potentially threatens vast numbers of jobs,[150] making it increasingly urgent to reduce tax on labour to keep it competitive. At the same time, a host of issues around transparency, bureaucracy and misaligned incentives need to be addressed. Ultimately, what is required is a comprehensively different model of tax and social support.

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

Income before tax Tax threshold Gap between income & threshold Tax rate Change in income Income after tax Effective tax rate
$0 $37,500 -$37,500 37.5% +$14,062 $14,062 0%
$27,500 $37,500 -$10,000 37.5% +$3,750 $31,250 0%
$37,500 $37,500 $0 37.5% Nil $37,500 0%
$47,500 $37,500 $10,000 37.5% -$3,750 $43,750 7.9%
$100,000 $37,500 $62,500 37.5% -$23,437 $76,563 23.4%
A lower and simpler tax rate can be brought about by closing loopholes and unifying tax and welfare systems. A basic income guarantee will replace complex welfare measures, clearing out poverty traps and bureaucracy.

A basic income system will provide a platform beneath which nobody can fall. It will ensure nobody can be forced into exploitative work or abusive domestic conditions under the threat of homelessness and poverty.[151][152][153] Low, unstable wages will be stabilised and topped up, smoothing the path for those seeking to improve their skills and shift from welfare into work. A higher tax-free threshold also provides a simple and transparent replacement for the present cluttered array of thresholds and offsets. Negative income tax is a progressive tax system which currently has near-unified support among economists.[154][155] The basic income guarantee will be an enabler of 'positive liberty', granting freedom to seek education and training, volunteer, create art and culture or raise children without bureaucratic obstacles and complex payment rules. It will be a platform on which entrepreneurship and creativity can be built.

A basic income guarantee will also play a role in re-balancing the power of individuals with that of the state. Many forms of middle class and business activity are already supported with automatic tax credits: providing social support under the same principle will mean government can no longer take income from citizens while refusing counter-obligations to citizens whose income collapses. A simple and adaptable safety net will remove welfare 'churn' since no taxpayer will receive benefits or vice versa. This will reduce swaths of bureaucracy and save significant costs, making the plan readily affordable.

Balancing revenue

A shift to negative income tax will reduce income tax receipts by around $30 billion per year, with the bulk of benefit flowing to low income earners. Pirate Party Australia would restore some revenue through abolition of tax breaks applied to negative gearing and capital gains. These tax breaks reward speculation and penalise work, and have helped to lock a whole generation out of home ownership.[156] Pirate Party Australia supports proposals to extend tax relief to businesses through a reduction in the base rate of company tax,[157][158][159] but believes such reforms should be paired up with abolition of fossil fuel rebates and closure of tax loopholes. Pirate Party Australia will also support a tax on carbon emissions so long as the revenue is entirely offset by reduced taxes on savings and work.

Pirate Party Australia would classify all charities as 'deductible gift recipients' in the future. This will make every charitable donation and activity tax-deductible. We will remove tax exemptions linked to 'advancement of religion', since a secular society has no grounds to discriminate between taxpayers on the basis of their beliefs.

More productive land, more productive people – reforming state taxes

The Pirate Party will abolish the most damaging taxes and lower the tax burden on work and investment.

State taxes are well known to be regressive and inefficient. Taxes on payrolls penalise job creation;[160] gambling taxes increase state reliance on problem gambling and create harmful policy incentives; insurance taxes lead to under-insurance and expose the economy to greater risks, and stamp duties discourage buying and selling property and prevent beneficial exchanges from occurring. Pirate Party Australia believes states should be funded differently—through a simple land value tax.

A land tax is best seen as a charge to supply government services (such as transport, infrastructure, and police protection) to a location. Where taxes on enterprise and work will tend to reduce them, land supply is fixed and taxes on it may actually provide public benefit[161] by encouraging productive land use. Land hoarding will end, and landholders will have strong incentives to increase the rental supply, which will cut rents. The Urban Land Institute describes land taxes as 'a golden key to urban renewal—to the automatic regeneration of a city—and not at public expense'.[162] Land tax is also impossible to evade and represents the most efficient and progressive tax available to governments.

Pirate Party Australia would exempt land in its natural state, and apply a per-meter tax free threshold to exclude agricultural land. We believe land tax should be applied on a progressive scale, with the highest rates applying to the most valuable land. Low-income land owners would be able to defer payments until land is sold or transferred. A land tax averaging 1.5 per cent will not unduly penalise land owners (who are seeing land value grow by over 6 per cent annually). However, it will provide enough revenue to replace a huge array of Australia's most harmful, regressive, and annoying taxes. Australia has long rewarded land speculation and taxed work and enterprise to a standstill. By taxing private ownership of a shared inheritance, we can allow people to keep the value they actually create and strengthen the incentives for work and innovation.

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

Distributed digital currencies and economies

Distributed digital currencies such as Bitcoin[163] (also referred to as cryptocurrencies) are an emerging and potentially highly disruptive technology, and are the subject of numerous official inquiries around the world.[164][165][166][167] 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. Consumers will also benefit through a reduction of risk in their online purchases and lower transaction fees as middle-men are 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. Organisations which directly wear the costs of poor security (the vendors) are also not the organisations with the power to increase the security of the system (the banks and payment services). Distributed digital currencies correct this issue inherently and are structurally more secure.[168] They eliminate the need to divulge account details and ensure 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.

Energy, environment and climate change

While the environment is perpetually changing, there is a risk that enormous changes imposed in a very short period of time may have a destabilising effect on our planet's ecological balance and life support systems. In the absence of a second planet, it is sensible to apply a precautionary principle in our dealings with the environment. Pirate Party Australia supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. We also support investments in our continent's unique environment which will preserve it for future generations.

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.

Climate change and renewable energy

Research and development and technology export are at the heart of combating global climate change. Global energy markets are approaching a point of deep change. Prices for on-site production and storage of energy will soon 'cross over' with the price of traditional grid power, making renewables cheaper than the status quo for a growing number of global consumers.[169] This will allow consumers to become ‘prosumers’ – energy users capable of independently generating their own power. Pirate Party Australia believes we should accelerate towards a system in which energy markets are democratised in this way. We want to see a freer market in which consumers directly compete with utilities.

Accordingly, Pirate Party Australia will seek to utilise resources currently allocated to the Emissions Reduction Fund and re-invest them in research and development of clean energy and on-site generation. We will also seek to improve the regulatory environment by removing regulations which hinder independent power generation. Consumers should be freer to enter markets, and utilities should be deregulated to enable them to adopt leaner 'probabalistic' power models and new services such as trading platforms between distributed energy producers.

These efforts should build on an existing platform of carbon pricing. Carbon pricing is desirable as long as revenue is matched with equivalent tax cuts in other areas. A carbon price creates or sharpens incentives for efficiency and investment all across the economy, and a fixed price provides the certainty needed to support long-term investment.[170] Pollution is the embodiment of privatised profits and socialised losses, and carbon pricing will ensure coal mining repays some of the costs it imposes on national water reserves, agriculture, and general public health.[171][172],[173].[174]

Pirate Party Australia believes we should act to reduce global emissions as well. We will seek to increase the rate of technology export to developing countries. We will also apply a small carbon price on exported emissions by requiring that coal exporters purchase carbon offsets through the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). CDM offsets offer an exceedingly cheap way to protect forests in developing countries, fund technology exports, and directly destroy highly potent heat-trapping gases such as HFC-23. The low price of these projects means a two dollar levy can fund a full offset of exported emissions at no cost to Australian taxpayers.

Pirate Party Australia remains open to final extensions in other measures including the Renewable Energy Target but believes our domestic climate change policies should ultimately simplify and converge on straightforward carbon pricing supported by R&D and technological improvement. Improved technology will offer magnifying benefits over time. A distributed grid open to 'prosumer' competition will yield lower power prices in the long run due to greater competition, removal of wastefully long power lines and falls in demand spikes which will allow utilities to adopt more efficient models. The communities of the future will be self-sufficient, and individuals will be freer to act directly on climate change when political action falls short. Policies which drive clean technology will create thousands of skilled jobs across our regions, and accordingly represent an important economic reform.

Preserving Australia’s ecology

Management of our environment needs to be more holistic in future. Cases such as the Murray-Darling system show that ecosystems are too deeply interconnected to be managed in different ways across state borders.[175] Future management can be improved through the development of tools such as a national Biodiversity Matrix, which will provide planners and the general public with a unified information source on our land and ocean ecosystems. The broader environmental approvals system itself can be improved by ensuring approvals are overseen by a fully independent authority operating free of political interference.

Pirate Party will also support practical measures to improve biodiversity on the ground. We will seek to both expand national parks and ensure that groups and communities have more avenues to assist with maintenance and management. We will also seek to re-allocate funding allocated to supporting 'green cars' - this funding is no longer required now that the automotive industry is leaving Australia. We will seek to utilise this funding for more direct environmental purposes, including support for community groups engaging in land management and containment of feral animals. We will also seek to expand investment in scientific research to develop longer-term solutions to the feral animal problem.

Pirate Party Australia supports a robust agricultural industry in Australia. We believe the needs of farmers should be prioritised over activities such as coal seam gas (CSG) extraction, which is being undertaken from a position of profound ignorance regarding its impacts on rivers, groundwater, and food security. Given the evidence of fugitive emissions leaks and other unforeseen impacts,[176] a moratorium is necessary until more meaningful evidence is available to demonstrate that extraction can be done safely and without undue impacts on rural communities.

Questions of ecology and energy adjudicate between the rights of current and future generations. Communities and policymakers need access to the most open scientific framework possible to help inform difficult environmental questions.

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.[177] The improvement of public understanding through transparency and scientific discovery has been crucial to improvements in animal welfare to date, and we believe in the further application of these principles. Accordingly, we support existing efforts to create an independent statutory authority to conduct research and improve animal welfare outcomes. We also support improvements in the level of transparency applying to animal products.

The Pirate Party believes live exports need to be examined, with ongoing efforts made to promote chilled meat exports as an alternative to the live cattle trade: live exports are characterized by months-long voyages, unsanitary conditions and total absence of any freedom of movement, with a significant follow-up risk of abuse in destination countries.[178][179] Efforts to improve live export conditions—in conjunction with sensible domestic reforms—offer the best chance for a 'net' gain in global animal welfare.


The Marriage Act in current form denies same sex couples a human right which is taken for granted in mainstream, heterosexual society. The Marriage Amendment Act 2004 pushed this discrimination further by imposing a declaration, compulsorily recited at all weddings, that marriage in Australia is an exclusionary institution only to occur between a man and a woman.[180] This imposes religious principles into state ceremonies, undermining the separation of Church and State—a principle which lacks explicit protection in the Australian Constitution.[181] It also feeds existing stigmas related to homosexuality, which cause significant harm: discrimination against same-sex couples is known to cause alienation, anxiety and depression, and the rate for suicide attempts among LGBT is 2.5 times higher than that of the general population.[182] The repercussions place a large burden on our health system.[183]

As the modifications enacted in 2004 demonstrate,[184] the Marriage Act is too easily used as a vehicle for political grandstanding, to the detriment of equality and civil liberties.[185] Protecting marriage is not a matter of excluding particular individuals: we should instead exclude the state, which has shown itself to be incapable of overseeing fair and proper marriage laws. We accordingly support returning marriage to the community and replacing the Marriage Act with a Civil Unions Act. This will offer equal treatment to same-sex couples, and help to ensure that all Australian citizens receive the same recognition and legal rights.


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.[186]

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 informed by ever more sophisticated medical research and technology.[187] 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.[188] Thus, 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 our 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 to a fraction of their current value, creating huge savings for hospitals, patients, and everyone who has ever bought over the counter.[189]

A greater focus on improving preventative practices and addressing homelessness, drug abuse, and domestic violence will pay off significantly, with a 2013 Senate report noting that, "by addressing the social determinants of health that are the genesis of many health problems, the costs to government of providing healthcare can be reduced, and individuals can enjoy better health outcomes". [190] Vaccinations are also an important pillar of preventative practice, with the available science clearly showing that compromised herd immunity represents a threat to the entire population. Efforts at harm prevention are reckoned to be particularly effective at reducing the likelihood of chronic illness, which often require highly complex treatment regimens.[191]

We also believe 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 advocate financial support for general practitioners to take on the role of designated treatment coordinator[192] 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 supports the ongoing roll-out of the NDIS—although continued consultation with carers and patients will be needed to maximise the benefits. Pirate Party Australia would support 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. Mental illness is creating an epidemic of suffering—not only for the mentally ill themselves but also their family, friends and the wider community. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 45 [193], 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.[194]

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.[195] 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. A dental plan can 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.[196] 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 [197] 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.


People have always taken drugs, and modern attempts at prohibition are at odds with history as well as human nature. 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. History shows that even the harshest attempts to outlaw a market do not make the market go away, but merely create 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,[198] making a mockery of prohibition. The choice we face is not between drugs and no drugs, but between legal and illegal markets.

The illegal market funnels vast profits to criminals and imposes equally vast costs on society. The US alone spends $50 billion per year fighting the war on drugs,[199] 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 poorly targeted, excluding alcohol and tobacco but imposing massive punishments on non-violent users of much less harmful products.[200] In producer countries, the illegal market has enriched drug cartels, causing thousands of deaths every year,[201] corrupting civil societies and creating a risk of failed states.

Prohibition offers no success to justify the cost: figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime show no observable decline in global drug use,[202] nor is any decline evident in Australia.[203] Results among individual nations show no correlation between drug use levels and the harshness of drug laws.[204]

The alternative

The experience of Portugal—where decriminalisation led to an observable fall in drug deaths[205]—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[206] 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, civil liberties must be respected. A belief in civil liberties does not require approval of every private choice, merely acceptance that choice should exist. The alternative has cost us too much, for too long.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Handling of asylum seekers is one of the great policy failures of recent years. Domestically, political and legal processes are mired in buck-passing and blame - a dysfunction mirrored in wider regional disputes.[207][208][209] The backlog of boat arrivals has overwhelmed capacity for processing, drownings at sea continue to escalate, and growing evidence is emerging of inept and inhumane handling of the problem in Australia and overseas.[210]

A crisis on such a scale 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 would 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 transparent allocation process should reduce disputes between nations, and pooling of information should improve document and identity checking. The creation of a new system of oversight allows 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,[211] and redirection of these funds will free up significant resources. Nations such as Indonesia would have strong incentives to sign up, both to receive aid, and to obtain help with settling their own 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 detention 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).[212]

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.

Foreign policy and treaty making

Australian foreign policy should focus less on imperial entanglements and more on embodying principles of law and human decency. Civil and digital liberties, transparency, and human rights are universal principles and should be embodied in foreign and domestic policy alike. Indeed, foreign and domestic spheres are often difficult to separate, with international treaties having potential to drive domestic lawmaking.

Treaties and diplomacy

Like all legal mechanisms, treaties derive legitimacy through consent and consultation. For this reason, treaties such as ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership have drawn concern due to the intense secrecy surrounding their formulation and negotiation. Serious investigation of purported 'free trade' treaties has often shown they are nothing of the kind, and offer few economic benefits[213] relative to the costs they impose, which can include insidious protectionism in the form of longer copyright and patent terms,[214] higher medicine prices,[215][216] imposition of surveillance,[217] significant additional complexity for exporting firms, and curbs on national sovereignty.[218] Pirate Party Australia supports direct dismantling of tariffs and trade barriers as a better alternative to preferential trade treaties.

Pirate Party Australia will also push governments to make better use of diplomatic channels, and in particular to register a stronger response to recent revelations of massive and warrantless monitoring by the US National Security Agency. Australians are being subjected to offshore monitoring on a massive scale with no access to appeals or accountability. The notion that allies can be treated as suspects with no rights is harmful both to domestic sovereignty and broader international relations. One method of safeguarding the liberties of internet users will be to ensure that foreign whistle blowers offering information relevant to the public good are granted protection under Australian whistle blower laws. Another will be to ensure that foreign intelligence and surveillance facilities operating in Australia are subject to some form of Australian oversight. We also believe negotiations should also commence on a new treaty to enshrine the principles of the internet and protect the rights of its users.

Defence and regional stability

Defence is also an important aspect of overseas engagement. Australia's defence strategy is blurred by confused objectives and competing demands.[219] The fundamental purpose of national defence sits uneasily with the counter-demand for participation in overseas wars, which have often undermined Australia's security. The purpose of defence is blurred further still by laws which allow the use of defence forces against civilians on domestic soil (in the name of protecting 'Commonwealth interests').[220] Defence needs greater transparency and to be purely dedicated to the safeguarding of Australian territory and people. This will open the way for a far more optimal use of defence resources and a more self-reliant global stance.

As an ocean-surrounded nation, Australia is well placed to maximise the benefits of submarine defence. Modern submarines are enormously powerful defensive tools[221][222][223] which, by some estimates, require an investment ratio of more than 100:1 (meaning every dollar spent on submarine capability requires at least $100 for an aggressor to counter)[224]. Oceanic defence can be backed up with reliable, affordable aircraft and a well equipped army which will increase the scale of forces an invader would need to commit. Pirate Party Australia supports investment in high quality, 'asymmetric' capability designed to raise the costs of attacking Australia. Pirate Party Australia does not support investment in force structures based on invasion and occupation. We do not believe it is necessary to expand defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP, and oppose the associated wasteful spending on flawed joint strike fighters,[225] large and vulnerable warships,[226] and long-range bombers.

Outside of direct military force, Australia can enhance its broader security in other ways. Australia should remain active in regional peacekeeping, and direct a greater share of defence resources towards regional engagement.[227] This 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 in order to foster regional development and stability. This could be done by re-allocating the latest funding bloat allocated to 'national security' and data retention and directing it to aid instead. Aid funding can also be freed up by implementing the recommendations of numerous inquiries to reduce waste and dead-weight costs in the defence bureaucracy.[228][229]

Where aid is deployed, the aim should be to foster human rights and humanitarian causes in a manner which is consistent with long-term improvement of local conditions. Aid has sometimes been structured to benefit business and producers in the donor countries - with potentially negative effects upon the recipient countries.[230][231][232] As an example, the increase in US rice delivered to Haiti as food aid in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 2010 has put further pressure on local producers already struggling after years of their market being flooded by cheap, heavily subsidized US rice and very low tariffs imposed by the IMF. [233][234] This practice should cease, with aid focused first and foremost on providing a path to local development and freedom from poverty.


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