This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.
Continuing on my theme of finally becoming the voter who actually reviews policies, today we go a bit more niche: state surveillance, anti-terror provisions and similar, specifically whether anti-terror is used as an excuse to infringe on civil liberties and political organising. I’m going into this expecting it to be fairly short — it’s a bigger issue in the United States and the UK than here (or perhaps I know more activists there than here), where “border protection” serves some of the same rhetorical and political roles — although there are minor parties more interested in these issues.
As with other posts in this series, if there’s a lack of commentary in the post, make up for it in the comments. For media coverage, spin and personality issues — or general news! — head to the latest Media Circus thread instead.)
ALP, Coalition, Greens
The Liberal’s Real Solutions has no mention of ‘surveillance’ or ‘privacy’. Their terrorism statement is that they will increase measures, focussing on security of ports:
We will deliver improved counter-terrorism and domestic security measures in Australia and secure our ports and airports. .They mention increased CCTV rollouts in their crime section (pg 42), none of which suggests that privacy and surveillance issues are a big issue for them. They also seem inclined to use the threat of terrorist immigration as an anti-refugee tactic, see eg this June press release.
In June 2013, Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement expressing some concern about the NSA’s PRISM program, particularly its implications for commercial interests, presumably Australian businesses hosting data on US servers. (I note incidentally that Real Solutions is hosted on Amazon Web Services. It’s just a curio since Real Solutions is public information, but I wonder if political parties host their donor databases and such on Australian servers?) If you search for the text of that statement on technical news sites, incidentally, the advertisements may encourage you to apply for a job with ASIO.
It’s difficult to find ALP information. They assert a right to privacy (National Platform, items 41 and 42, pages 186–187), largely centered around privacy of data held by the government, especially health information and credit information. They assert that
[Labor will] ensure that personal information of Australians transferred overseas is protected which I find difficult to interpret (if nothing else, the phrasing is rather ambiguous between personal information being sent overseas and Australians themselves being sent!). Elsewhere in the National Platform, they write:
Labor refuses to manipulate fear or racism for political gain in response to terror. Australia needs tough laws to deal with terrorism but, just as importantly, we need well-balanced laws that target the terrorists, not innocent citizens. We need strong safeguards to protect the civil and human rights that are fundamental to our freedoms. Labor is committed to finalising the review of the Anti-Terrorism Legislation.
item 132, page 209
I don’t see that translated into policy for the present campaign anywhere.
The Greens have a specific surveillance policy generally affirming a right to privacy. They seek to bring telecommunications surveillance back under the control of normal judicial warrants, and subject to Freedom of Information requests; they want intelligence sharing with the “5 Eyes” countries (the other four are the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand) overhauled; and they oppose proposals for data retention concerning Australian’s Internet use.
From a slightly haphazard collection on Monday, I focus today on minor parties that I know to have some interest in civil liberties and/or digital rights.
As one would expect, this is a prominent issue in their campaign platform:
… the WikiLeaks Party will be fearless in its opposition to the creeping surveillance state, driven by globalised data collection and spying agencies, both state and corporate controlled. We will demand that all information on data seizure and storage of citizens’ data by government agencies and allied corporations be made public.
Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.