Policies/Foreign Policy

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Official Party Document
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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.[1] 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".[2]

Recent preferential trade deals have included protectionist poison pills in the form of stronger IP laws, which open the way to corporate rent-seeking[3] and inflated prices for essentials such as medicine.[4][5] Other preferential trade deals have contained mandates for monitoring of internet use and surveillance,[6] or have introduced new rights for corporations to sue governments.[7].

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.[8]

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.[9]
  • 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.[10] 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').[11] 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[12][13][14] 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)[15]. 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,[16] large and vulnerable warships,[17] 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[18] 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.[19][20] 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[21].
    • Ensure the Defence Trade Controls Act[22] 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[23] 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[24] 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.[25][26]
    • 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. [27]
  • 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[28][29] 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,[30] 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).[31]

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:[32]
    • 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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  1. Productivity Commission, Research report - Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, November 2010, page xx, http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/104203/trade-agreements-report.pdf (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  2. Productivity Commission, Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14, page 2, http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/trade-assistance/2013-14/trade-assistance-review-2013-14.pdf (Accessed 6 July 2016)
  3. Productivity Commission, Research report - Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, November 2010, page 88, http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/104203/trade-agreements-report.pdf (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  4. Wikileaks - US and Japan Lead Attack on Affordable Cancer Treatments, https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/attack-on-affordable-cancer-treatments.html (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  5. A Blank Cheque for Abuse, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Pages 1-2, http://www.msfaccess.org/sites/default/files/MSF_assets/Access/Docs/Access_Briefing_ACTABlankCheque_ENG_2012.pdf (Accessed 8 July 2013)
  6. Article 27, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/ip-pi/acta-text-acrc.aspx?lang=eng#chapter2_sect5 (Accessed 8 July 2013)
  7. ISDS: the devil in the trade detail, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/isds-the-devil-in-the-trade-deal/5734490 (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  8. Productivity Commission, Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14, page 21, http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/trade-assistance/2013-14/trade-assistance-review-2013-14.pdf (Accessed 6 July 2016)
  9. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1980/23.html (Accessed July 9 2013)
  10. White, A middling power: why Australia's defence is all at sea, The Monthly, September 2012, http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/september/1346903463/hugh-white/middling-power (Accessed 3 March 2015)
  11. Head, The military callout question – some legal and constitutional questions, December 2001, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/FedLRev/2001/12.html (Accessed 3 March 2015)
  12. White, A middling power: why Australia's defence is all at sea, The Monthly, September 2012, http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/september/1346903463/hugh-white/middling-power (Accessed 3 March 2015)
  13. Babbage, Ross, Australia's Strategic Edge, Kokoda, February 2011, pages 79, 90
  14. Corbett, Australia's $60 billion submarine dilemma, The Monthly, August 2014. https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/august/1406815200/claire-corbett/australia%E2%80%99s-60-billion-submarine-dilemma (Accessed March 4 2015)
  15. Keeping Australia's Options Open in Constrained Strategic Circumstances: The Future Underwater Warfare Capacity, Submarine Institute of Australia, August 2008, page 14, http://www.submarineinstitute.com/userfiles/File/SIA_DWP2008_Submission.pdf
  16. How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane, Axe, August 2013, https://medium.com/war-is-boring/fd-how-the-u-s-and-its-allies-got-stuck-with-the-worlds-worst-new-warplane-5c95d45f86a5 (Accessed 16 June 2015)
  17. White, A middling power: why Australia's defence is all at sea, The Monthly, September 2012, http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/september/1346903463/hugh-white/middling-power (Accessed 3 March 2015)
  18. Babbage, Ross, Australia's Strategic Edge, Kokoda, February 2011, pages 96-97
  19. Defence – National Commission of Audit, March 2014, http://www.ncoa.gov.au/report/phase-one/part-b/7-8-defence.html (Accessed March 4 2015).
  20. First principles review of defence, April 2015, pages 12-18, 67, 69. http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/reviews/firstprinciples/ (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  21. Head, The military callout question – some legal and constitutional questions, December 2001, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/FedLRev/2001/12.html (Accessed 3 March 2015)
  22. http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012A00153
  23. http://www.defence.gov.au/pathwaytochange/docs/dlapiper/Background.asp
  24. First principles review of defence, April 2015, pages 12-18, 67, 69. http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/reviews/firstprinciples/ (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  25. Millennium Development Goals, AusAID, July 2013, http://www.ausaid.gov.au/aidissues/mdg/Pages/home.aspx (Accessed July 7 2013)
  26. Lane, “Foreign spending boosted and aid money capped for onshore asylum costs”, 13 May 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3757469.htm (Accessed July 7 2013)
  27. Article 14 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Archives of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, http://www.ichrp.org/en/article_14_udhr
  28. Refugee Council of Australia, "Submissions to Joint Parlimentary Committee on Human Rights Examination of the Migration (Regional Processing) Package of Legislation", Sections 1.7, 1.8, 2.2, 2.3, April 2013, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/r/sub/1304-EP.pdf
  29. Parliamentary Library, "Immigration detention in Australia", 20 March 2013, http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/Detention#_Toc351535446
  30. Burnside, Julian, "Four steps to more humane refugee processing", 23 November 2012, http://theconversation.com/four-steps-to-more-humane-refugee-processing-10945 (Accessed June 27 2013)
  31. Beeby, "Labour shortage costing farmers $150m a year", January 6, 2012, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/labour-shortage-costing-farmers-150m-a-year-20120105-1pmvz.html (Accessed June 27 2013)
  32. http://www.kaleidoscopeaustralia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Best-Practice-Guide-22nd-June-2015.pdf Kaleidoscope Australia - Best Practices Guide