Pirate Party launches anti-surveillance petition


news The Australian division of digital rights movement the Pirate Party has launched an online petition through which it is collecting support from Australians who object to the wide-ranging new tranche of surveillance and data retention powers currently being proposed by the Labor Federal Government.

The Federal Attorney-General’s Department is currently promulgating a package of reforms which would see a number of wide-ranging changes made to make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor what Australians are doing on the Internet. For example, the Government is interested in establishing an offence which would allow Australians to be charged with failing to assist in decrypting encrypted communications. Also on the cards is a data retention protocol which would require ISPs, for example, to retain data on their customers for up to two years, and changes which would empower agencies to source data on users’ activities on social networking sites.

Instead of law enforcement agencies being forced to request multiple different types of interception warrants, the legislation would be modified to allow authorities to request a new more comprehensive centralised type of warrant with multiple powers. Provisions under the ASIO Act for the intelligence agency to request warrants are to be modernised and streamlined, and the agency is to gain the power to disrupt a target computer for the purposes of accessing the information on it — or even to access other third-party computers on the way to the target machine.

Speaking on ABC television several weeks ago, EFA executive office Jon Lawrence said what the package amounted to was “a massive increasine in surveillance powers, with a corresponding decrease in accountability”. “What we’re seeing here is the sort of powers that probably fit better in a place like China or Iran,” he said. Both China and Iran are noted for being countries where citizens’ activities on the Internet and other communications channels are strictly controlled and monitored, especially in areas where citizens have the capacity to express dissent against the countries’ ruling governments.

The Greens also strongly object to the package, with the party’s Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam describing the package as representing a “systematic erosion of privacy”.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Pirate Party of Australia said its petition would be presented to the Senate, and that it was also planning a submission to the parliamentary committee currently considering the proposed legislation.

“This is one of the most sweeping attacks on our privacy that has ever been attempted in Australia,” said Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, Deputy Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “Pirate Party Australia is actively committed to campaigning to ensure Australians enjoy a high level privacy. It is necessary that police, security and intelligence agencies have certain restricted powers to protect the community, but blanket provisions for compromising privacy should not be introduced.”

The petition itself states that those who sign it are critical of:

  • Claims that Australians have a low expectation of the fundamental right to privacy in order to justify greater surveillance and erosion of privacy protections;
  • The expansion of the scope of interception warrants which would allow unrelated devices belonging to third parties to be accessed unknowingly; and
  • The lack of proper public consultation, including a small window of time for submissions to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to be made.

It requests that the Senate makes a number of commitments to Australians’ digital rights, such as only authorising surveillance where judicially sanctioned and targeted at specific individuals; refraining from implementing surveillance that violates “fundamental human rights and freedoms”, especially relating to data retention; and expecting lawmakers and intelligence and law enforcement officials to respect the values of Australian citizens by respecting “the fundamental right to privacy”.

Do I expect Australia’s parliamentarians to pay any attention to this petition? No, I don’t. Just as they are currently ignoring the howls of protest from many sections of Australia’s community with respect to the Attorney-General’s Orwellian package of surveillance and data retention reforms, I expect them to ignore the Pirate Party’s petition as well. But change has to start somewhere, people, and this sort of initiative is what eventually got Labor’s mandatory filter knocked back. I encourage anyone concerned about this issue to sign this petition and write to their parliamentarian as well.

Image credit: Anja Ranneberg, royalty free


  1. Tried to sign it, but server crash, anyway, i agree with this dude ;)

    “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

    ― John Adams


  2. Renai while I support t he petition I am wondering if it is in the correct form and will be accepted as valid.

    I thought that the petition had to show an address for the petitioners on it. I know there was talk of changing requirements but don’t know if that was ever done.

    • The petition is to the Senate, which have different and more relaxed rules than the the House.

      Having organised one of these before I believe that this petition is valid.

      In addition, I think the folks at PPA are switched on enough to have run it by the Senate Questions & Petitions Officer just to be sure.

        • OK. Thanks guys. Already sent. Looks like it may not be needed though as Roxon has supposedly put it on hold until after the next election. Mandatory ISP filtering come to mind……………..?

  3. Sorry Renai, but this:

    Just as they are currently ignoring the howls of protest from many sections of Australia’s community with respect to the Attorney-General’s Orwellian package of surveillance and data retention reforms, I expect them to ignore the Pirate Party’s petition as well.

    Isn’t exactly true. That gave in an extended the deadline on the submissions. And, once again I state this, that this is an INQUIRY, NOT a parliamentary sitting.

    The government don’t simply turn around and go home when a vocal minority start complaining publicly. There are legitimate concerns, but they’re not likely to listen to whining. They’re likely to listen to the Inquiry, which any and everyone has the chance to submit to. THEY are who these groups need to convince.

    • I hadn’t realised I was being whiny. Needy, perhaps, but only because I heard Renai likes that.

      • @Stephen

        My “whiny” comment is directed at the constant media reports from various privacy organisations that essentially consistently say “the government aren’t listening to what the people want” and “the government are ignoring public demands”.

        The public, as do these organisations, have EVERY right to disagree AND submit that disagreement to be weighed at the inquiry. JUST like the government, ASIO and the AFP will have their opinions weighed.

        • @seven_tech

          My “needy” comment was intended to inject a tiny amount of humour into the comments. It seems to have failed:(.

          But since we’re being serious, I’ll whine until the moon is blue. I make sure my whining is heard, by not only posting on sites such as this but also writing to the minister/shadow minister/local representative/lizard king.

          • @Stephen

            Ah! I missed that. Had a cranky day yesterday.

            You’ve every right to make yourself heard. As long as you do it democratically and peacefully in this instance, as everyone else should.

            I hear this morning anyway it may be postponed anyway. Shame- I’d like to see if the government would actually allow the full democratic process if the inquiry advised against it and actually fold it. But, looks like this may be another ‘too hard’ for government because of politics.

  4. What is happening to our civil liberties? The Labour party is showing us what is really is – Communists who want to take away all of our rights and privacy, and establish a police state. Say no to Totalitarianism, from the left or the right. Smash the state.

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