Pirate Party Australia 2012 Congress Roundup

Just over month ago, Pirate Party Australia started their National Congress. I mentioned I was going to do a reflection on it in my last post, and finally I’ve managed to find some time to do so.

The National Congress begins with a two-day conference where physical and online participants work on policy changes, socialise, hear presentations and candidate speeches. This year’s conference was in Melbourne, Victoria, and was attended by Pirates from six out of seven Australian states and territories. Motions are voted on at the conference as to whether they will pass to a full-party vote – this is a sort of “mass seconding” – and amended in a similar way.

The first comment I’d like to make is that there were a heck of a lot of things to get through. Last Congress was quite informal in comparison. There were around 30 motions to get through, four presentations and elections for nine positions.

Nevertheless, it was much more successful than the Pirate Parties International General Assembly Conference earlier this year.

The reason for this is that we started on time. We made sure that people arrived earlier than the start time, and provided plenty of flexibility within our agenda. Additionally, all audiovisual equipment had been tested in near-operational circumstances prior to the day of the conference, and an hour was provided to make sure everything was working fine. What was also great about this approach is that I provided my own mixer and microphone, someone else provided other microphones and cables, and the PA and streaming software was provided by someone else. So we cut our costs down by using equipment we were already familiar with anyway. All up, it cost us less than $300 in funds for the two days.

There was a downside – the venue we hired did not have a wired Internet connection. This meant that everyone was tethering from their phones, and the streaming was via a 3G broadband connection. Not the best set up, and something which will need to be remedied for the Canberra 2013 conference. This made it difficult to take minutes collectively, but was only a minor issue in my opinion.

Following the conference there is a week-long voting period. It usually starts within the week directly afterwards, but in this case the complexity of the voting system and the fact that the Secretary got food poisoning meant that it was delayed, and the voting didn’t close until August 1. Not too bad – it was nice to mull over the motions and think about which candidates to vote for – but hopefully the time will be brought down a little next year.

Onto the motions: there were a few highlights, obviously subjective. It was excellent to see my Platform Revision 2012 pass without a hitch. Pirate Party Australia now has a nice and neat set of policies (the platform includes other amendments passed at the Congress).

All the policy amendments I put forward personally were passed with high majorities, which makes me happy – I’m in a party whose policies seem to be almost entirely in line with my own. Pirate Party Australia adopted 13 policy amendments, and are the first Pirate Party to adopt a policy on 3D printing technologies.

The National Council elections saw the previous members return, with the addition of myself and Sam Kearns as Deputy Secretary and Deputy Treasurer respectively. The newly elected council appointed Glen Takkenberg as Party Agent, completing the seven positions. George Campbell was a new addition to the Dispute Resolutions Committee.

As mentioned above, there were four presentations – two from members, and two guests. Andrew Downing spoke about the “Polly” project for which he is Technology Lead. Polly will be Pirate Party Australia’s liquid democracy system, which is being developed in-house due to dissatisfaction with existing platforms. The alpha version should be operational in 2014 we estimate. It was a very informative presentation, and I’m fairly certain everyone was impressed with the amount of consideration which had been given to the planning of the software’s features.

Asher Wolf, a Melbourne activist discussed the impending National Security Inquiry – a whole bunch of proposals to extend the powers of security and intelligence agents – and the need to avoid a police state.

Glen Takkenberg from the ACT Branch talked about the “failure” to register in time for the upcoming elections, and what the road forward will look like.

And finishing off the conference was a talk from Dan Hunter, Professor of Law at New York Law School, “an expert in internet law, intellectual property, and artificial intelligence and cognitive science models of law.” The talk was quite fascinating and informative, particularly in relation to the history of copyright (what he called a “Tragedy in Three Acts”). I believe Dr. Hunter is used to presenting this talk to the other side of the debate, so he seemed quite interested to hear what we had to say. It was extremely nice of him to give the presentation to us out of his own time.

So, that’s about all I have to say about that. Melbourne is an interesting but odd city. The trams cost $4, yet don’t accept notes. Nor are there vending machines for change at the tram stops. Otherwise, I “enjoyed” myself (it wasn’t any worse than Sydney =P).

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Author: Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer

Pirate Party Australia Deputy Secretary and Press Officer. Former member of the Pirate Parties International Court of Arbitration.