Policies/Foreign Policy and Treaty Making

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Official Party Document
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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[1] relative to the costs they impose, which can include insidious protectionism in the form of longer copyright and patent terms,[2] higher medicine prices,[3][4] imposition of surveillance,[5] significant additional complexity for exporting firms, and curbs on national sovereignty.[6] 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.[7] 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').[8] 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[9][10][11] 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)[12]. 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,[13] large and vulnerable warships,[14] 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.[15] 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.[16][17]

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.[18][19][20] 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. [21][22] This practice should cease, with aid focused first and foremost on providing a path to local development and freedom from poverty.

Policy text

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.
    • Treaties which disadvantage Australian businesses by offering special parallel legal systems to foreign-owned firms under the guise of investor-state dispute settlement.
  • 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.[23]
  • Ban inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions and ensure foreign businesses retain equivalent legal protections to domestic businesses.
  • 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.

Improve defence transparency and focus

  • Focus defence on safeguarding Australian people and territory.
    • Prioritise investment in 'sea denial' (submarines supported by 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[24].
    • Ensure the Defence Trade Controls Act[25] 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[26] to protect defence personnel from abuse and misconduct.
  • Reduce costs and prevent 'white elephant' projects.
    • Place funding for future capability into a separate budget, with spending subject to open tenders and public oversight.
    • Enact recommendations of First Principles Review[27] 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 within two years to meet Millennium Development Goals.[28][29]
    • Expand provision 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. [30]
  • 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.


  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, 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. Babbage, Ross, Australia's Strategic Edge, Kokoda, February 2011, pages 79, 90
  11. 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)
  12. 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
  13. 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)
  14. 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)
  15. Babbage, Ross, Australia's Strategic Edge, Kokoda, February 2011, pages 96-97
  16. 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).
  17. First principles review of defence, April 2015, pages 12-18, 67, 69. http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/reviews/firstprinciples/ (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  18. Food aid or hidden dumping, Oxfam Briefing Paper, 2005 http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp71_food_aid.pdf (Accessed 10 July 2013)
  19. Food Aid as Dumping, Anup Shah, 2005 http://www.globalissues.org/article/10/food-aid-as-dumping (Accessed 10 July 2013)
  20. J.W. Smith, The World’s Wasted Wealth 2, Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994, pp. 63, 64
  21. Food imports hurt struggling Haitian farmers, NBC News/Associated Press, 2010, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35608836/ns/world_news-americas/t/food-imports-hurt-struggling-haitian-farmers/ (Accessed 10 July 2013)
  22. Haitian farmers undermined by food aid, Jacob Kushner, Centre for Public Integrity, 2012, http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/01/11/7844/haitian-farmers-undermined-food-aid (Accessed 10 July 2013)
  23. 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)
  24. 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)
  25. http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012A00153
  26. http://www.defence.gov.au/pathwaytochange/docs/dlapiper/Background.asp
  27. First principles review of defence, April 2015, pages 12-18, 67, 69. http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/reviews/firstprinciples/ (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  28. Millennium Development Goals, AusAID, July 2013, http://www.ausaid.gov.au/aidissues/mdg/Pages/home.aspx (Accessed July 7 2013)
  29. 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)
  30. Article 14 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Archives of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, http://www.ichrp.org/en/article_14_udhr