Australian Pirates Run For The Federal Elections
Pirate Party of Australia (PPAU) is one of the oldest pirate parties in the world. It was founded in 2008 it has extended its policies from the traditional pirate platform. Today the party has more than 1.300 members. The coming month, on July 2, seven candidates in three states run for the federal elections (aiming to do better than 2013 when they got 0,3% to 0,6% of the votes). Simon Frew, President of the National Council of PPAU, told Pirate Times that Australian Pirates have noticed much greater name recognition than the last campaign.
PPAU’s crowdfunding campaign, “Produce Pirate Party Propaganda“, went well. More than $5,000 Aus were raised, enough for the electoral material. The election campaign entitled “Transparency Liberty Digital Rights”, or TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read), focuses on civil liberties, government transparency, a free Internet and supporting a basic income for all.
As in many countries, the elections in Australia is a balance between the “two party system”, the Labor (progressives) and the Liberal Party (conservatives). They have recently passed website blocking legislation but Simon tells us that “many consumers already run a VPN and already dodge geo-blocks, so we feel that any censorship will be easily side-stepped by the majority of consumers”.
When asked about the broken relationship between PPAU and PPI, Simon said that “we wanted PPI to be participatory, democratic and more focused on collaboration between all the Pirate Parties around the world. Instead the organisation is bureaucratic, dysfunctional”
Pirate Times: How has the crowdfunding campaign gone? Are you satisfied with the results?
Simon Frew: The election was called a few months early because the current government felt they couldn’t get their agenda through. This caught us out as we were in the middle of trying to fund a new open source membership database system. Having just finished raising $12,500 for that, we weren’t able to ask for too much off our membership. We managed to raise just over $5,000 Aus for advertising materials for the campaign. It will be adequate, we are used to operating on a small budget. We are really thankful that so many of our members have chipped in for multiple campaigns now.
Pirate Times: Does PPAU get any funding from the state?
Simon: Australia’s political system only gives money to Parties who get over 4% of the vote. We have yet to manage that, so unfortunately no.
Pirate Times: Although PPAU was founded in 2008, it first ran for the elections in 2013. Why not earlier?
Simon: Australia has fairly stringent requirements for forming a political Party to contest elections. We failed to register in time for the 2010 election due to failing to meet the required 500 members correctly enrolled and verified by the electoral commission. The next election was in 2013.
Pirate Times: Does PPAU have any representatives in the local governments or elsewhere?
Simon: Pirate Party Australia has yet to meaningfully engage in politics at state and local levels, this is in part due to the difficulty in getting registered as a political Party in many states. For e.g. New South Wales, the state I live in, requires 750 members who all have to sign paper forms years before an election to become registered.
We will be working to engage in local and State politics once we get through the election.
Pirate Times: What will be the focus of PPAU for the election campaign?
Simon: We will be focused on civil liberties, government transparency, a free Internet and supporting a basic income for all.
Pirate Times: What was the main reason(s) for PPAU to extend its policies outside the “traditional” pirate core principles?
Simon: The biggest criticism we copped in the early years was that people liked our policies on civil liberties etc, but they also cared about other issues and wanted us to stand for more. At the same time we found that we shared similar values and liked similar solutions to issues outside of traditional pirate issues.
With this in mind we started formulating new policies through debate and research and every policy that we have adopted has had support of over 80% of the membership.
Pirate Times: In which areas did PPAU extend its policies?
Simon: We now have extensive policies dealing with climate change, refugees, education, drug reform, equal marriage, telecommunications, health, etc.
Pirate Times: In the past there were some issues concerning the censorship (internet filters, black listed websites, etc) of Australian internet. How are things now?
Simon: The current government passed website blocking legislation specifically to protect rights holders and there are now cases running against piracy websites such as TPB [The Pirate Bay] and Kick Ass Torrents to get them blocked.
The Australian media landscape is particularly backwards and Australians suffer under extensive geo-blocking, late releases for TV shows and movies and expensive content. Many consumers already run a VPN and already dodge geo-blocks, so we feel that any censorship will be easily side-stepped by the majority of consumers.
Pirate Times: How many members are there today registered with PPAU?
Simon: Just over 1,300 members.
Pirate Times: PPAU is running seven pirate candidates. What are your expectations from the elections?
Simon: We are running in three States and in one lower house seat in Sydney. We plan on doing better than we did at the last election where we got between 0.3% and 0.6% of the vote. We have noticed much greater name recognition than the last campaign, so are hopeful of doing better.
Pirate Times: What are the chances for PPAU to elect a MP? What is the percentage needed to elect a MP?
Simon: We don’t have much chance to elect anyone, especially after the government changed the senate vote counting rules. Due to parliament being dissolved twice the number of Senate seats are being contested which makes the quota to be elected just over 7% compared to the usual 14.3%.
Pirate Times: What do polls show?
Simon: We aren’t included in polls due to the large amount of small parties that are running. The election itself is finely balanced between the Australian Labor Party (progressives) and the Liberal Party (conservatives).
Pirate Times: What’s the electoral influence of PPAU? What do Australians think about PPAU?
Simon: Our influence seems to manifest itself through the impact we are having on other parties who have adopted parts of our platform. The Labor Party are supporting more government transparency, at least whilst in opposition. The Greens have adopted a similar approach to us on a lot of issues and we have semi-regular discussions with them about our politics and organisational approach.
Pirate Times: Did Australian media invite pirate candidates to debates?
Simon: Only the Labor Party and the Liberal Party have been invited to debates. We are getting regular media coverage however.
Pirate Times: Describe the current political situation in Australia. Do Australians search for something new? What are the main problems of the country and what does PPAU suggest for those?
Simon: Like many democracies, Australia has become more politically unstable in recent years. One obvious symptom of this is that we have seen four Prime Ministers being appointed and removed either at an election or by their own parties in the last four years. Minor parties are polling at about 25% of the primary vote collectively, which is a record.
The election is being fought over economic management and service provisions, with the Labor Party promising to spend more on health and education and the Liberal Party looking to cut expenditure and continue with austerity. We support education and health expenditure, but more importantly we are offering a reworking of the tax system to include a basic income for all among other reforms.
Pirate Times: In the past there was an effort for the creation of another PP in Australia. What are the challenges PPAU is facing now?
Simon: Compared to much of the world, Australia is very sparsely populated. With the Internet we were able to set up a national organisation rather easily. Our biggest struggle is to plant roots in local politics and organise more on a regional and State level. Pirate activists are much more likely to work on national or international issues than local issues and this will need to change.
It will be easier to get elected at state and local levels which we hope to use as a stepping stone to getting elected nationally. Some of our platform needs to be passed through state parliaments to be enacted too.
Pirate Times: PPAU has left PPI by a decision of its members. What is your opinion (critique) towards PPI?
Simon: There are a few problems that caused us to reconsider our membership of PPI. The issue that really put into focus the other issues was the poor running of the General Assemblies (GAs), in particular for remote participants.
Due to Australia being so geographically dispersed, we had to deal with remote participation before we could properly exist. Therefore we have always been bitterly disappointed with the limited and poor access that remote participants got in PPI GAs. When we tried to fix this, even going to far as to do the work ourselves, we were cynically blocked by the PPI Board.
We wanted PPI to be participatory, democratic and more focused on collaboration between all the Pirate Parties around the world. Instead the organisation is bureaucratic, dysfunctional and focused on ‘representing’ pirates at international meetings, neglecting the very real need for international collaboration. We have had much better success approaching individual parties as required, e.g. working around the PPI in order to campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The pirate candidates for the 2016 Australian Federal Election
The Pirate Party will be contesting for the Senate in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, as well as the House of Representatives seat of Bennelong. The party will receive its own column on the Senate ballot, as there are two candidates for each state they are contesting.
New South Wales
John August will be contesting the House of Representatives seat of Bennelong in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs.
The National Council of PPAU
President – Simon Frew
Deputy President – Michael Keating
Secretary – Daniel Judge
Deputy Secretary – Fletcher Boyd
Treasurer – Mark Gibbons
Deputy Treasurer – Ben McGinnes
Registered Officer – David Crafti
Councillor – Thomas Randle
Councillor – Peter Fulton
Pirate Times wishes good luck to the pirate candidates and thanks Simon Frew for the interview.
All images licensed under CC-BY-PPAU
About Stathis Leivaditis
The English “pirate” is derived from the Greek word “πειρατής” (peiratēs) and this in turn from the verb “πειράομαι” (peiráomai), “I attempt”, which is a derivative of the noun “πείρα” (peîra), “experience”. Coming from the depths of the centuries, the word “pirate” took on another dimension in our days. The ruling classes saw pirates as rebels and hated them. Rebels without a state, they were not submissive to any law, except from the laws they instituted themselves, improvising together. This is the feeling of a Pirate: when something doesn’t work, you have to attempt to bring a new concept. Sometimes it goes beyond a certain point and perhaps exceeds certain limits, because it is an expression of challenge; the challenge to change the system. I’m a member of the Board (and former chairman) of Pirate Party of Greece, also a member of press team of PPGR, former journalist, now a free lancer. I'm in the team of Pirate Times from the start, I joined voluntarily and consciously because I am interested to meet pirates from around the world, to exchange views and spread the pirate spirit.