Federal Election minus 3 days: state surveillance and anti-terror policies

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.

See also Electronic Frontiers Australia Election 2013 scorecard.

Smaller parties

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.

Pirate Party

Privacy is listed as one of the four major civil liberties they value. They oppose both the proposed 2 year retention of Australian’s Internet use data, and denounse PRISM and PRISM-like programs.

Wikileaks Party

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.

In addition, there’s a specific Surveillance and your privacy policy requiring that agencies seek a warrant to spy on your Internet usage; a twice-yearly tabling of aggregate figures related to such surveillance; and ASIO and anyone else cooperating with overseas agencies to report such cooperation publicly.

Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.

Categories: law & order, parties and factions

Tags: , , , ,

6 replies

  1. I’m a bit sad you skipped the “detention without trial” measures brought in by Howard with bipartisan support. Those are still in force, are still a farce, and are still deeply disturbing. The Greens oppose them, the Pirates don’t have a policy, and Wikileaks don’t want to talk about them. Yes, I ask parties about this in particular because it offends me deeply and doubly because it’s also an offence to disclose that you know or reasonably suspect that someone may have been/is detained under those provisions. The two week limit is a joke, they have to release you but they don’t have to do so in public or notify anyone that you have been released, and they may immediately re-detain you. Indefinitely.
    No legislation reference, ASIO powers: http://www.hrlc.org.au/files/DGZNHGCKVZ/Factsheet%20-%20Counter-Terrorism.pdf
    Legislation, AFP can “only” hold people for 24 hours at a time, renewable indefinitely by a judge: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/human-rights-guide-australias-counter-terrorism-laws#3_7

  2. I try not to let my distaste for the founder of Wikileaks get in the way of my feelings towards the organisation at large.
    I think they have some significant issues that they need to sort out before they get anywhere near a Senate seat. Although I think I would prefer them over Pauline Hanson.
    The first Wikileaks leak of the video was a game changer. Subsequent leaks not so much. I think that they tricked Chelsea Manning at a time she was vulnerable and have left her to fend for herself. Although at the same time they have highlighted a huge hole in the security of the information management system of the US Government so that was probably a good thing.
    As for the stuff they have released about the government – it seemed to me to be all about embarrassing the Labor government with little or no benefit to the Australian public.

  3. Mindy, having read Daniel Mathews’ resignation letter from the WL party I am fairly happy to extend suspicion/dislike/loathing of Assange to at least the Australian WL Party because (on Mathews’ account) it is being run to Assange’s preferences and style at the expense of its stated principles where there’s a conflict. I will not be voting for them or preferencing them highly. I’m often broadly in line with their civil liberties positions, which is why I’ve reviewed them here, not because I am considering or advocating voting for them.
    Moz: thanks, I’ve been quite focussed on PRISM, partly because my networks are so US-focussed (not that the US doesn’t have its problems with detention in violation of human rights) at the expense of the abuses of people who (allegedly) reach some index of suspicion under anti-terror laws.

  4. NP Mary, the data snooping is serious but it’s what that leads to that is a whole nother level of problem. Yes, the government here can “disappear” people, but they don’t have to tell us whether they actually do that… and it’s very easy to commit offenses if you try to find out whether they have.
    Once you start looking into what various powers-that-be have the authority to do it can be quite scary, and the “checks and balances” parts are usually a joke (“authorised by the PM” and “authorised by any judge” with no possibility of review are common). NZ is going through that ATM with the Kim Dotcom and Urewera cases. Australia has been much more energetic in its anti-terrorism activities but there’s been no similar coverage here (I’m not suggesting use of suppression laws, but curious as to whether the limited visiblity has let the PTB cover up problems more easily).

  5. The inability to disclose’s one detention etc is really frightening.

  6. Trevor Grant at New Matilda has a review of the situation of the 50 or so asylum-seekers who get a negative security assessment by ASIO:

    As the new Abbott government prepares to act on its policy promises, thousands of asylum seekers and refugees await the outcome with trepidation.
    None more so than the group of about 50 ASIO-rejected refugees, most of whom have spent between three and four years locked away indefinitely because ASIO has determined they are threats to Australia’s national security.
    They have good reason for their concern, given that the incoming Attorney-General, George Brandis, has already signalled that he will leave them locked away in their legal blackhole. He was unequivocal back in March, saying that “they had no-one to blame but themselves” because they had entered Australia “illegally”.

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