Congress 2016 Strategy Paper

Taking the Pirate Party to the next level

This paper is being proposed as a discussion topic at Congress and the outcome of the discussion in this thread and at Congress will hopefully inform what we do going forward.

We have reached a point in our development as a political organisation where we need to have a serious debate about the strategic direction of the party. This paper will go briefly into how we got to where we are today and what I think we will need to do to get from where we are, to a position where we can challenge for Senate seats in our own right.

We need to start planting roots, by this I mean building localised organisations who can participate in local and grassroots politics. This will be key to the long term goal of making it into the Senate. Getting elected in local government and State elections is a much easier task than getting into the Senate. The quota percentages are much lower, and in the case of local government elections, people tend to be more wary of mainstream politicians than at other levels of government: this may well work for us if we have members with a profile campaigning on local issues.

To reach the Federal Senate, a party needs around 14 per cent of the vote. This is punishingly difficult for new parties. However, if the Pirate Party can win an upper-house position in a state parliament such as NSW (where the quota is only 4 per cent) we will reap a huge gain of resources and media coverage. We will also have 8 years in the public eye to demonstrate our values and make a difference. This will reinforce our party’s growth and our prospects for future Federal campaigns. Most successful minor parties begin by gaining state representation, and climb to the Federal arena subsequently.

Whilst we haven’t ever really been a single issue party, our focus has been on digital rights, intellectual property and civil liberties. We need the space to campaign on broader issues that still fit within our expanding platform. This will give us wider appeal to people wanting to get involved, but may care about issues that we currently don’t campaign on.

Local Branches, Local Politics

The first time I met Senator Lee Rhiannon (Greens NSW) was at an Anti-TPP protest in Sydney. She asked me how the Pirate Party got formed and I explained how our Founder Rodney Serkowski set up some IRC chat channels and a website, and people searched out the Pirate Party and joined from there. She had trouble believing that we could form nationally without any local groupings. The Greens took the far more common approach to forming a political party, by forming out of local environmental campaigning groups into state based organisations and finally the Federal Greens.

We formed to fight specific political battles which have mainly been waged on a national and international level. The Internet was new terrain for governments and due to a combination of ‘donations’ from vested interests, a desire to look tough on crime/terrorism/piracy etc. and a culture of wilful ignorance about technological issues, they sought to create systems that stripped away basic rights and civil liberties upon which parliamentary democracy was founded.

We had to fight against Internet censorship with the ALP’s ‘Internet filter’ and now with the Coalition passing laws to enable the blocking of file-sharing sites. There has been a relentless assault on civil liberties, with data retention being attempted by consecutive governments and finally implemented under Abbott. Attacks on whistle-blowers, with anti-terror laws and border protection laws making exposing wrong-doing punishable by gaol, for not only the whistle-blower, but possibly the journalist exposing the secret. We have seen secret trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which attack the right of parliaments to make laws that could potentially harm the profits of multinationals, and implement the dreams of the IP lobby by writing clauses that would never pass the scrutiny of parliament into these agreements.

This work will no doubt continue and be the main terrain for our politics. However, the national and international focus has meant that local issues, that the Pirate Party may wish to campaign on have fallen by the way-side. There are important campaigns that we should be working on, but lack the resources and we should re-prioritise our campaigning to take on more local and State campaigns. On a local council level, these include CCTV surveillance, transparency and corruption. Local politics often plays out at a State government level. We should be campaigning against attacks on civil liberties by State governments, against drug prohibition, against corruption and for environmental protections and government transparency.

Broadening our Focus

Continuing on as we have been, campaigning only on core issues of civil liberties and digital rights will limit our growth into the future because a lot of people who care about civil liberties and digital rights also care about climate change, broader issues of human rights, the environment etc… We want these people to not only want to vote for us, but to join us, to contribute to the party and to Australian politics more broadly.

The Policy Development Committee will work to continue to expand our policy base (and could use more help), but we already have policies for areas outside of where we put our energy. Climate change, refugees, education and drug reform stand out in my mind as being areas where Pirates could contribute to politics in Australia where we already have policies.

Part of this will be the academic work the Party is great at, writing submissions to parliamentary inquiries, Australian Law Reform Commission reviews etc… Part of it will be participating in social movement politics. We have done this sporadically, particularly in defence of Wikileaks, but we need to take the political space to do this more broadly. It will make us more attractive to people who are politically active who could give the party new energy to help us grow and become more influential.

Participating in political movements gives inexperienced members a way to learn politics at the grass roots. Many of the skills that help the party contest elections can be learned in less intimidating environments than a Federal election campaign. Student politics, particularly around campaigning for a better education, fit in with Pirate Party values. It exposes participants to other political organisations, and is a crash course in the machinations that the major parties (and others) employ in their cynical quests for power. Campus based Pirate groups would be useful. To make it happen we would need a few members on a campus to put their hands up to set up a club, call a meeting or just to attend an activist collective meetings.

Taking up political campaigns on the local and state level also require some broadening of our campaign focus. Our policy set actually requires action on the State level to implement some of our agenda. Drug reform, government transparency and transport are all issues that are predominantly fought on the State government level of politics.

The Need for Diversity

We have grown fairly rapidly since our formation. We have done a good job of attracting ‘the low hanging fruit’. I.E. people already interested in open source, the politics of file-sharing and the importance of civil liberties for individuals in the online world. For a variety of reasons, IT issues tend to draw more interest from middle class males than other sections of society and this colours the demographic makeup of the party. This is something we need to be conscious of and this is something we need to work to address.

There are three parts to addressing the issue IMO. Firstly we must work to ensure our policies actively address disadvantage, that we work to address the issues faced by minorities and strive to make society more equitable. We are already doing this. We have clear anti-poverty proposals including a basic income. We support the right for women to access abortions and we are working on policy initiatives to address transgender rights. We have discussed indigenous rights, and whilst the policy has stalled due to my chairing it and having to run the election campaign, we should aim to get back to work once congress has passed. We have also discussed policies to tackle domestic violence, which will be worked into a broader criminal justice policy over the coming year.

Secondly, we need to ensure that we create a more inviting political culture. Work has been started on this, with Victorian Candidate Lachlan Simpson (aka datakid) proposing a code of conduct and a diversity statement. This will require a bit of a shift in culture to tone down the friction in debates. Whilst we need clarity of debate, we must ensure these don’t devolve into insults or aggression. We need to create a culture where people can contribute to debates without being experts and do so without being humiliated or being made to feel stupid. Not everyone enters a debate with the same levels as prior knowledge as others, and it is important to enable those new entrants, rather than exclude them (intentionally or unintentionally). We want to be a party where all channels for participation are as open and inclusive as they can possibly be.

Thirdly, we must work to address issues of diversity in different aspects of tech culture. Part of this will need us to address gender issues in STEM fields professionally and part will be engaging in progressive cultural discussion in games and broader culture. The negative stereotypes around both areas colours how our own gender imbalance is viewed from outside the Party. I personally think the vast majority of the party are respectful, encouraging and mindful of these issues and we don’t have much to address internally. We just need to be engaging with these issues as they arise in public debate.

Concrete proposals

Establishing local Branches

We have tried to establish local crews in the past, but there was little progress at the time due to our geographical diversity and a lack of critical mass. We haven’t had serious plans to campaign on local issues, which has left localised groups redundant in terms of activism.
Now we are three times the size, we have an expanded platform and have more motivation to engage in local politics. In order to campaign on local issues, branches should be based on local government areas. This means that the branch has a clear agenda at the local level, to participate in local politics.

Establishing State Branches

State branches will be easier to form than local branches, in part because there are more people and in part because holding a meeting in a State’s capital can include people from a variety of local council areas. Some States (all of the Eastern ones) are holding regular to semi-regular meetings in the capital cities. In future, these meetings could include some extra state based ‘content’.

Local branches will put us in a good position to participate in State politics. As discussed above, local politics often plays out on the State level, meaning that local branches will be campaigning on state issues by default. State branches will be tasked with running State election campaigns, coordinating and sharing resources among local branches as well as articulating policies that aren’t already covered in the National Platform.

Over time, we hope to form State Councils to run the day to day activities of the State branches, much as the National Council runs the day to day activities of the federal party.

Code of Conduct

As mentioned in the diversity section, we need to develop a more comprehensive code of conduct for members in order to be clear about the type of culture we expect within the party.


You mention local groups Frew, this is something the other three major parties do well. A party I was in a couple of decades ago had a lot of fun social activities. It makes it more than “let’s go talk politics”. It was the usual dinners, movies, gigs, bowling, etc.

The debate teams were also a strong focus. This gives a good reason to get together, helps hone your arguing skills, and is regular fun (we had fortnightly debates at a room above a pub, then local competitions, with interstate ones after the locals).

Local groups could also adopt a charity. Something where they meet up to form a bond, do something to also raise the party profile, etc.

The other advantage of having tighter local groups (friends), is during electioneering. It’s hard, lonely, and boring standing around all day by yourself. You many not have the numbers to have 2 or 3 or 4 people per booth, but even if someone comes by to give you a 15 minute break, drops off some food and drink, it really helps pick you up.

1 Like

I think 4% is a very good target for the reasons you mention.

In order to achieve that we probably need to improve our brand, name recognition, knowledge of our policy strength etc.

We will likely need to be acknowledged for policy strengths that are outside the assumed values of our “pirate” brand, which brings up a number of issues;

  • What are our wider policy strengths, or what should they be.

  • How do we distinguish ourselves from parties that we have common policies, like the greens. (we dont want to be known as the “light greens”, we need our own well defined identity)

  • Changing or evolving the party name. (issue is being considered seperatly)

Perhaps we could try and sell ourselves as being the best party for progressive Law and Order policies (euthanasia could get peoples attention), perhaps that (L&O) is large enough to be a major issue for 4%.
Which isnt to say we dont need a broad set of policies in lots of areas, but we need one or two policy areas that can define us, that we wont be crowded out by other parties, like the environment is for the greens, economy for libs, farmers for Nationals, workers for ALP.

LTDR; its certainly something we can hold onto, but is it enough to get us to 4% by itself.

We should also recognise there are benefits to being a small party, we can specialise and carve out a niche, we can develop or change new policies much more quickly that other, from an administrative point of view it takes the ALP takes 2 years to change or add a policy.

We dont have the baggage of factions and long held divisions that the major parties do. We are small enough to be able to listen to all our members. We can have a focus that the majors cant.

Some inputs from me:

  • Local Crews / Groups : Important to not see it as either / or - we need to recognise need for a multi-layered engagement. The digital “virtual” (I don’t believe online is virtual, it is just as meaningful and real as “real life” but adopt the term for the … normies… so they know what i’m talking about) should remain our primary mechanism of engagement between the party, and I think we should continue to invest more effort and resources in to maximising this channel of engagement within the party and also externally. We should be THE most online proficient and capable political party that hits above its weight when communicating to anything or anyone via an IP address. That said, humans are critical to the party so other forms of human interaction are very important, including face to face. We have seen a strong uptick in Melbourne activity for example and a lot more trust as a result of a few meets. We need more ways to engage with each other.

  • Do one thing well. Before boiling oceans and solving world peace we really do need to build a strong almost fearsome ability to deliver in a small number of things politically. I feel we are spread too thin trying to acomplish too much and not standing out at anything. Success in strategy in about priority, choosing where to fail so you can consciously devote resources to where it matters most to succeed. Our lack of vision in this point particularly is the source of our lack of funds, members and recognition in the electorate. Solve this and the rest will follow. Want to influence debate on Refugees? Well get good at being effective on digital rights first so there is a reason to talk to us over any random protester off the street.

  • Diversity. It’s important. Yes. But utlimately its about our self identity as a party and then our engagement channels. If we have those right, Diversity will follow. If we have them right but not diversity, the cultural barriers will be broken down anyway. Grrl Hackathons etc. are :eyesroll: insulting to many actual women in technology. Yeah I’m a white male saying this.

  • Code of Conduct. All for its. Some basic rules to play always good. But we need to support informal communication, and trolling is an important part of online culture that serves a very important purpose in counter culture protest. Be careful to not wipe out the very foundation of genuine internet counter culture. On this point I would like to share a story about my son. When he was starting high school they had an anti cyber bullying campaign. Now for a point of reference he has been a hardcore gamer culture forum warrior for years by this point, trained in flamewarfoo by his parents. This was at the time Breaking Bad was a big thing. We had to talk to him about it.

"Do you ever feel worried about being bullied online?"
He looks at me oddly.
“Dad. C’mon. I am the one who knocks…”


Our primary organising focus will most likely always be online. Australia is a country and a continent, online is the only way we can have everyone participating despite geography. Face to face meetings are great for building solidarity and for working on the local level, but they can’t replace online organisation. It would be counter-productive to drop online in favour of afk meetings because open discussions involving all members ensures we are all on the same page.

I think @Michael_B explains some of the use of local meetings, although it will be up to each locality what to do at their meetings. Sydney’s meetings are mainly chatting with a few beers, which is working at this stage because the vast majority of the participants are involved online. Assuming we opt to start campaigning on state issues this will have to change.

Local meetings can discuss local and state politics which currently get overlooked. I know in NSW there is scope and need to campaign on civil liberties issues. Using local and state meetings to discuss the politics of state governments will hopefully lead to us taking the first steps to campaign on local issues, which in turn will give us a foot in the door for entering state parliaments.

I don’t see this as redirecting time and energy in order to campaign on our broader platform, but enabling members to campaign on a broader platform as they wish. Activists are worth their weight in gold to our party and I think making it clear that anyone joining can campaign on whatever they think is important will make us more attractive to people wanting to get their hands dirty. Some people who want to get active on Internet censorship also care about climate change and don’t want to choose between the two, I don’t see any benefit in making them choose.

The only issue outside of intellectual property and civil liberties issues we have spent any energy campaigning on is basic income. This gets us great mileage as we are the only party supporting the concept in the country. Totally worth it.

Just need something simple, common sense and doesn’t lead to over-policing of discussion, whilst not scaring off those who are not confident.


2cents: Should go hard with Basic Income, Pirates are the only party in Australia that have backed the concept as far as i know and it’s a BIG and broadly appealing concept. When people vote the very first thing anyone considers is how a party’s ideas affects them personally, then their friends and family, then their community and so on outwards. As increasingly everyone experiences or is touched by knowing someone being out of work or underpaid or made “redundant” and making soul crushing visits to the centrelink office the Basic Income idea will have increasing resonance.

1 Like

Agree 100% with basic income as our third tentpole.

In a federal election, three things are key: infrastructure, services, and the economy more generally. If we’re going to try to be a “full-service” party we need to have a coherent and comprehensive economic message. UBI is the kernel of that. Policy needs rounding out, message especially needs rounding out (the usual “omg how do you propose to pay for all this”).

I’m excited about the push to create local branches. Local meetings will make us more approachable and more engaging, and should see diversity, participation, and membership all increase. IRC and capital city meetings are barriers for some people and locally there is a void that allows the Greens to seduce would-be Pirates with their rallies and events. We need to take those people back.

If we can set up local branches this year than those branches should aim to recruit members on campuses during O-week in February 2017, and establish campus branches if there is enough interest.

I also really like the idea of replacing four National Council positions (CAP-6) with Officers for Communications, Campaigns, Volunteers, and Fundraising. I think that is a great move and I’m keen to see what those roles can achieve.

1 Like

IoT Potential
Having a comprehensive policy on IoT could form the basis of our economic platform. It appears to be growing quite rapidly and some agencies have suggested that it will exceed $10 trillion/year within 10 years. Not bad little haul if Australia can be at the forefront of development. I’m not sure it has even reached the coal-fired dreams of the LNP neocons let alone discussed in Cabinet…

Very happy about starting up state branches, the WA state election is scheduled for 11 March 2017. I’ve started a thread for policy ideas and general disscussion about a Western Australian Branch.

Western Australian State Election 2017


I feel like I’m a pretty forward thinking person but I don’t see what’s so great about the Thingernet. I mean some things can benefit from smart monitoring capabilities but there’s little reason to connect them to the internet, that just increases the amount of hackable stuff and ways to monitor citizens.

1 Like

Yeah Mate - I agree about the issues with security and privacy for IoT - I’m an old x-genner who doesn’t really get it either. But it appears to be the next big thing on the horizon regardless of how I feel about it. Unless the Government has a strong Policy on the IoT Industry, it’ll slip through their fingers, like online commerce did, and they’ll miss revenue opportunities (potentially big opportunities too).

This has veered wildly into new thread territory, if the discussion keeps going I will fork it into a new thread.

The Internet of Things will be subject to the GST by virtue of being things. It will also be subject to data usage costs by virtue of being part of the Internet. Data handling, reporting of data breaches etc. would be covered by our privacy policy etc. Actual things connected to the Internet would be developed by people who could learn under our education policy and may well come up with their ideas while surviving on basic income. Other than supporting general innovation, I am not sure what we can have as a specific policy, it seems to fit in with everything else.

1 Like

You’re right @Frew but I’m just replying to a reply about a comprehensive economic policy. You’re right about GST and other legalities, but I was really talking about R&D $$$s and Government incentive to establish a strong industry base here.
Sorry for lacking clarity so I’ll shutup now and allow this thread to get back on track…

Start a thread about this or anything else you wish to discuss. :slight_smile:

(Was trying to head off a thread derailing at the pass, to mix metaphors)

Actually Frew, I don’t know if you’re aware that I spent a while working as Architect/Manager for an IoT Mesh Network startup. During that time, it became apparent to me that one of the core goals of IoT businesses is to provide IoT as cloud based services, so that all of the data from all of the IoT things streams through them for storage, aggregation and slicing and dicing it every which way they can imagine to turn a profit. The “Big Data” strategy.
Mostly, they want to present this like Google did when they offered search services to the world. You all get this free service, we get to mine your data and advertise to you. Overall, that was an OK deal with Google (though they continue to push the boundaries), but in the case of IoT, we’re not even in the loop. As things stand, it’s a deal with our Things. We won’t even notice, and yet there are thousands of subtle ways in which this can act against our interests.
I think there is scope for policy in this area. I think ownership of data rights must stem from ownership of property (or things) and that express (rather than implied) permission, including binding statements limiting purposes and bounds of use must be sought before a corporation can acquire license for the use of your IoT data. People have to stay in the loop and not be excluded from such decisions. Default opt-in is not OK.


I’ve been racking my brain to how IoT can even be profitable and the only things i came up with is… more screens to sell to advertisers, monitoring you and selling the information to advertisers and maybe subscription/microtransaction based direct profit. Plus they would inevitably end up going down the same road videogames have with this power, using it for DRM.
None of which are things i would want my fridge to be doing.


The big $ strategy is to sell everything as a service.
The “Thing” you buy is just an enabler for the service.
They might even give you some for free as a loss leader.

So, you buy a house full of smart Things
They sell you software services.

  • Security services because collectively, your Things can detect all movement around your house/work/wherever.
  • Mood lighting because your Things detect the temp/humidity/timeOfDay/shouting/ vibe of the room and the lighting acts to make people chill the fuck out. Maybe they change the ambient music and sync if with your biorhythms because you’re into that and so are your friends.
  • Maybe they auto-water/feed your plants by detecting ambient temp/humidity.
  • Maybe they automate most of your pool cleaning and maintenance, ordering chemicals and all the rest because they know everything about it all of the time.
  • etc etc etc etc.
    They charge you for all of these services FOREVER.

On the flip side of this, they also store all of your data FOREVER and do analysis on it, so they can:

  • Sell you more Things and Services
  • Sell other peoples Things and Services to go with your existing Things and Services.
  • Sell analysis services to other vendors so they can do this too.
  • Sell analysis services to governments so they can know and monitor what the population is doing too, without asking permission.
    This is the model.

On top of all that, this infrastructure becomes the sensory system for emerging global machine intelligences.
There are already “educational” toys for young kids internet connected to massive machine learning networks (e.g. I giggled as I read the bit there where they said they had to sit themselves between the toy and Watson “for privacy reasons”. Hahahahahaha. That is not why.

Mandatory: “I for one, welcome our new machine overlords.”

People! I don’t want to get in the Poo with The Frew…

Support The Frew!!!