Freedom of thought and speech is a requirement for discussions that advance human knowledge and well-being in all fields. People should feel free to speak against the government, established ideologies, religions and current cultural dogma. This freedom of speech should come without fear of retribution or penalty under law. Polite discourse when challenging ideas is recommended, but not a requirement for free speech.
1. Freedom in electronic communication
1.1. Policy: The internet is to remain without government filters.
(See also our Net Neutrality policy.)
1.2. Discussion: Freedom of electronic communication has been regularly under attack in recent times. Internet filters are a mainstay of dictatorships around the world, used to make views that may challenge the establishment disappear. Recently, the Australian government has proposed and withdrawn support for a nationwide internet filter, similar to information-controlling countries such as China. Despite the removal of the majority of the proposals, we must ensure that no such filter is considered in the future. The Science Party is committed to preserving freedom online, as the free flow of information is necessary for both economic development and individual enjoyment, as well as the continuation of a healthy democracy.
It is hard to believe that a government will not be tempted to restrict information that negatively impacts them. A filter list needs to be developed in order to implement a filter. If this list is not accessible to the public, the government could potentially add sites that are not criminal in nature and oppose the government in some way, and there would be no accountability. Without information, there is no democracy, and a filter would likely have a negative impact on democracy.
Economic development will be hindered if filters are put in place. False negatives, where a site is wrongly flagged as illegal or of questionable content despite being of a totally reputable nature, will inevitably happen. This will take these sites off the map completely. Even if this occurs for a short period of time to a limited number of websites, this will have a negative impact on the economy.
If there can be no assurance that a website will not be filtered if it is hosted in Australia, Australia will lose valuable web-hosting and information technology jobs to overseas countries where no such threats are made to freedom of speech.
Filters, if they are to have any teeth will slow the internet. Even small amounts of delay (measured in milliseconds) will have economic implications for industries including the finance industry, navigation industries, space related industries, communications technologies and navigational technology.
A classic example of censorship occurs in our high schools across the country. Access to sites that contain sex-related terms is banned from school computers. If children are told to research sexually transmitted infections, the number of sites that are listed is severely restricted. Our children are actually harmed by puritan beliefs that sexual information must all be bad, and such filters lack the human knowledge that some sites are clearly only pornographic, while others contain information about sex which teenagers should learn about for their own health. If filters are automatically applied to all internet access points, people all over the country will be deprived of information that will help preserve their own health.
In a similar vein to the personal impact of filters, imagine a researcher in the field of sexually transmissible diseases. Incorrect filtering of as little as one page could prevent or delay research into life-saving technology. The researcher may not even know that page exists, as all evidence that it does exist could be eliminated. Most universities around the country have the capability to do widespread filtering, but refuse to do so for exactly this reason.
Filters are easily overcome, and hence useless
Tools such as proxies can be used to avoid filters, and Onion/Tor allow information to be shared on a 'dark-net' that cannot be intercepted. As shown above, internet filters will not achieve their stated objectives and will only do harm to the country's economy and its people.
2. Online Privacy
2.1. Policy: Law enforcement agencies must apply for and receive a warrant to investigate online behaviour. There shall be no requirement for internet service providers to maintain logs of all users' behaviour unless ordered to do so by a court on an individual basis.
2.2. Discussion: Part of freedom of speech is being able to say things privately. In communications between individuals, groups and corporations, there is an assumption that this communication is private. Unfortunately, the federal Labor party has policy that intends to break that assumption of privacy by mandating all communications made on the internet to be stored for a period of two years. As the potential for misappropriation of communication is high, this will drive a commercial interest in the use of cryptographic systems, which will prevent companies and individuals from having their private information disclosed. These cryptographic tools will also be quickly adopted by those these surveillance laws are aimed at; child pornography users, criminal gangs and terrorists. This shows how legislation restricting the internet has very negative short-term consequences, and how technology will eventually be developed and implemented that will thwart any benefits supposedly yielded by such laws.
The Science Party believes that the privacy of individuals should not be assumed to be present at all times, especially when an individual is performing an illegal act with great moral consequences. However, in order for the government to break the privacy of the individual, the government should have good reason to believe that an individual has or is about to commit an illegal act, and should get proper authorisation to collect information from the courts in the form a warrant. Such systems have successfully been used in the past, and can continue to be used today. When the police have suspicion that an individual is committing an offence, the police must apply to the courts to have the individual's phone tapped and should do the same when wanting to investigate an individual's internet usage.
3. Commitment to Anti-Discrimination
3.1. Policy: The Science Party is committed to ending all forms of material discrimination.
3.2. Discussion: The Science Party believes that discrimination decreases the quality of life of all individuals, whether they are personally discriminated against or not. Discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and age in the workplace reduces the quality of life of those who are discriminated against, while reducing productivity of the whole economy.
4. Marriage Equality
4.1. Policy: Legalise marriage between two consenting individuals, regardless of their gender or gender identity.
4.2. Discussion: Loving couples who commit to one another bring joy into one another's lives and their family around them. They also strengthen the communities they live in. The government and the courts recognise these commitments through the institution of civil marriage. Such an important and beneficial institution should be open to any two consenting adults, regardless of gender. While recent times have seen great advances in the rights afforded to gay and lesbian couples who register their relationship, marriage is still currently not an option for these couples. This is explicit discrimination against this group of people. It is the government telling a gay couple in a loving relationship that they are not worthy to be considered married simply because they are two men or two women, instead of a man and a woman.
While governments must regulate certain family matters for practical reasons, the nature of the family itself is and should continue to be a matter for every individual to decide, in the context of their own beliefs, community, and cultural heritage. In particular, the Science Party strongly believes that there are a variety of family structures that extend well beyond the nuclear family structure that should not be discriminated against. Likewise, religious beliefs are personal, and what is considered a marriage in a particular religion may vary greatly from the legal interpretation of a marriage and from other religious interpretations. Hence religious communities should keep their existing right to solemnise only those marriages that accord with their own traditions and practices.
See the Science Party's 2017 submission to the Draft Marriage Equality Bill.
The Science Party recognises that current end of life scenarios for some people are painful and that cures for such conditions are unlikely in the short time that those people have left to live. The Science Party believes that if a person has decided to end their own life, the actions they take to end their own life should not be considered a criminal offence. The Science Party believes it is the role of government to address risks of state, doctor and family corruption with regard to physician-assisted dying.
Physician-assisted dying for the terminally ill, on the consultation of two doctors, has been legal in Oregon, USA, and the Netherlands for many years. Evidence from these jurisdictions suggests that the law has been used as intended and not abused.
5.1. Policy: The Science Party supports the introduction of a well-regulated physician-assisted dying scheme, but remains committed to providing the relevant medical research and health care to bring humanity closer to indefinite life-extension.
5.2. Discussion: The Science Party believes that physician-assisted dying should be available to people who:
- have a terminal illness as confirmed by two qualified medical practitioners;
- are over 18 years of age;
- are not experiencing a mental health episode that may prevent them from making consensual health decisions; and
- are not in a state that prevents the making of consensual health conditions (such as severe mental disability, brain damage or coma);
- the procedure must be reviewed by a court in each instance;
- the patient must first receive appropriate psychological or psychiatric counselling for underlying mental health conditions;
- and the patient must be made aware of all available treatments, expected duration of remaining life and expected pain levels.
In addition, the Science Party supports the following safeguards:
5.3 Policy: Physician-assisted dying may only be conducted in the following facilities (not inside regular health care facilities):
- dedicated hospices;
- the homes of those who intend to end their life, as authorised by a court; or
- registered end of life clinics (to be created under this legislation).
5.4. Discussion: Healthcare paranoia is a serious issue that prevents some people from receiving healthcare. Some people are scared that indicating organ donation will result in doctors in killing them early to harvest organs. Other people refuse vaccinations for themselves and their children because they believe vaccines are unsafe. Allowing physician-assisted dying to occur in normal healthcare settings may prevent individuals seeking care they need. If hospitals stop being a safe place for some people because of the fear of being mistaken for n assisted-dying candidate, the net utility of legalising the procedure may actually be negative. To prevent unnecessary healthcare paranoia, physician-assisted dying should only be carried out in hospices, private homes under the authorisation of a relevant authority, and dedicated end of life clinics (which can provide services that can accommodate for a comfortable life-ending process).
5.5. Policy: Create a new offence that criminalises coercing individuals into using physician-assisted dying services.
5.6. Discussion: This law would be similar to existing laws that make it an offence to encourage someone to commit suicide. This law needs to be carefully constructed to allow people to provide information to people who are in end of life situations, but strong enough such that badgering a person into death is an offence with a proportional sentence attached to it. There is a risk that someone may be pressured into physician-assisted dying for inheritance, to stop the family losing money on treatments that prolong the inevitable, or simply because the emotional drain of caring for a dying person can be intense. We should protect those people who are close to death, as they are highly vulnerable individuals. They often only have real personal contact with those in the family who are most affected by extended suffering through to the end of life and sometimes the likely beneficiary of inheritance.
5.7. Policy: Legalise the sale of publications related to physician-assisted dying.
5.8. Discussion: We believe in a strong debate surrounding the issue of physician-assisted dying. Books by Philip Nitschke which describe processes by which someone may die a less painful medically-assisted death are currently banned in Australia. While the Science Party believes strongly in preventing self harm, banning these books does little to prevent self harm (as there are numerous widely known methods for taking one's life) and ultimately silences debate on the issue. We therefore propose the removal of books regarding this issue from the list of censored books.
6.1 Policy: Replace current, narrow Fair Dealing Exceptions to copyright laws with broad Fair Use provisions.
6.2 Discussion: Australian Fair Dealing Exceptions do not go far enough to protect users of copyright material for the creation of derivative works from being in breach of copyright law. The impact of Australia's restrictive copyright laws is that new technologies are less likely to be created and implemented in Australia. A change to less restrictive 'Fair Use' copyright laws is recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
For a work to be exempt under Australia's Fair Dealing copyright law, it must be specifically covered by the Copyright Act. This means any new use that is not listed in the Act is a copyright infringement, even if it is in the spirit of fair use. In the digital age, these laws place people at risk of breaking the law when using new media that are not covered by the Act. Derivative works such as a search engine that uses images and snippets of text (such as Google) would rest on much less certain legal foundation in Australia than in the US, because a specific law would need to be passed to allow such derivative works.
In contrast, 'Fair Use' laws such as those in effect in the USA, Canada, and much of southeast Asia, instead define broad types of use that should be deemed fair. These Fair Use provisions do not appear to have had a detrimental effect on creative output in those countries.
Amending Australia's copyright law to be more consistent with the USA's has significant trade advantages. The cost of legal advice to understand the laws would be less and the terms of trading copyright works both into and out of Australia would be clearer to all involved.