Resolving Australia’s treaty-making ‘democratic deficit’

Australia’s treaty-making process completely bypassed the Commonwealth Parliament until the 1960s, when Prime Minister Menzies committed to tabling in both Houses of Parliament treaties that were signed but not yet ratified. Reforms in the 1990s attempted to involve Parliament more, but it has for the most part retained its lame duck status and Australia continues to suffer a democratic deficit.

Negotiating, entering into and ratifying treaties is the prerogative of the Australian Government. The signature of the Foreign Affairs or Trade Minister is a gesture that the Australian Government intends to commit Australia to obligations under international law. When the Government ratifies or accedes to an agreement, it becomes binding on Australia, confirming that Australia will comply with those obligations.

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Review: “No Safe Harbor” by the United States Pirate Party.

I finished the United States Pirate Party’s No Safe Harbor yesterday, and was impressed by both its scope and its quality. I purchased the paperback from Amazon, and had it shipped to Australia for just under AU$20 all up. It is also available in several formats for free download (the traffic was so enormous that they had to shift sites), with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

No Safe Harbor is divided into three sections that deal with the Pirate Party Movement’s three key policy areas – institutional transparency and accountability, the right to privacy, and intellectual property reform – in an attempt to explain the aims and policies of particularly the USPP. Generally, however, the essays it contains can be applied to almost every Pirate Party globally, and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get a grasp on the issues that Pirate Parties are trying to make a stand on.

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“Freedom of Information.”

In late September, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department met with internet service providers and representatives of content rights holders.

The copyright lobby and its many faces and fronts are being given an audience with the Attorney General’s Department and platform on which to pressure ISPs into an industry code for ‘dealing’ with file sharers .–  Rodney Serkowski

Serkowski, the then president of Pirate Party Australia, requested minutes and documents relating to the meeting under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. After considerable delay for a request of this nature, the documents were finally released. Pirate Party Australia will be releasing a press release after they have finished analysing the documents, however we have noted the following:

This is what freedom of information looks like in the Twenty-First Century.