The Why of Pirate Party Australia

The Why of Pirate Party Australia

Started to write this as a discussion topic and got carried away. Before I knew it, I had half a blog post, so I decided to do finish it on my blog and post it there. I will link back to the discussion on the blog.


I realise this is far too simplistic, however from my perspective there are only two true competent technology-oriented political entities currently in Australia: PP and Scott Ludlam in the Greens. All else is either ignorant or suspiciously lightweight (looking at you Malcolm T.!)

After I wrote the above, Delimiter came up with this piece, titled “Budget a harsh wake-up call for the tech sector”. This is pretty much exactly what I meant to say!

I think there a lot more examples of the openness of our politics.
Just having IRC and now discourse for a start.
Where else can you chat to party representatives and/or election candidates any night of the week?
Then there is the way that all party meetings are open to public, including policy development.
AND, there was the way we did preferences in the federal election.

Another core principle that stands out for me, is that “Government matters should default to being public and transparent, while individual matters should default to being private and protected.”

We’re not left or right.
Some policies are at their core, incredibly pro-business (just not in favour of supporting vested interests in maintaining dead go-to-market strategies) and others look quite social justice oriented, but with more of a libertarian bent.

We’re also curiously different than any strict libertarian where they’d just say there should be less government. More like, to whatever extent there currently need for government, it should be transparent and it’s duty is to the citizens, who, as a default starting point should retain their privacy, dignity and rights to do as they will without interference.

We’re also kinda green, but not in some fanatical way, more like just look for evidence and do the sensible thing.
Nobody wants their drinking water polluted and nobody wants the planet overheating. Duh!

The other thing is time scales.
With every party playing their cards so close to their chests that it’s hard to even tell if they’re cards, it’s impossible to do anything with any vision or strategy in this country any more, So heh, politicians need to get a spine and commit to some longer term strategic vision based on actual evidence, but it only works if the majority know the plan, the reasons, and get involved or at least committed.

If I had to point to the ONE BIG THING that most of the population could get on-board about, it’s that THE WAY POLITICS IS DONE IN AUSTRALIA REALLY SUCKS and has done so for quite a while.

People vote for the party they dislike the least. How wrong is that?
Most people won’t join a party to change anything because “it’s politics” and that’s a dirty word for most Australians.

To me, the technology related issues we champion are not fundamental to the principles of this party. They are just where the front line is located.

The change we offer people, is open participatory politics, where we insist on transparency and evidence above all else. No more secrets.


My ‘why’ would be to foster a free, open and vibrant digital society. The digital bit is important- the internet is a massive demonstration of how openness and decentralisation and participation can unlock human potential. Every policy should (in one way or another) shift power/knowledge/initiative away from rigid hierarchy and authority and invest it instead in society and individuals.

Hey Mark,
As I was originally posing this question at Saturdays NSW meetup, (about the ‘why’), I was interested in the kind of ‘why’ that might be broadly understood and aligned with by a large proportion of the population. I was thinking on how to appeal more widely without compromising what we’re about.
From this perspective, the digital stuff is all about ‘what’ we’re doing, because that’s where the action is and the new frontiers of freedom exist and where the really interesting potential for participative democracy will be realised. However, it’s not important to the ‘why’ questions. It’s not the fundamental motivator unless you’re already well into the space. The fundamental ‘why’ stuff is all about people. Digital world or physical world … Why do we want the things we want as a party? That’s what I’m trying to get to.

In my opinion, the why goes back to the fundamental principles of democracy, and a push to try and align our governmental process’ and procedures to that ideal for the benefit of all.
I take your points Andrew about the current system is shrouded in such secrecy that it is actually hindering the development of policies that can actually make differences, as well as hindering the public from participating.
These are values everyone should uphold regardless of their political standing of right or left.

We aren’t trying to organise or equalise people. I think it’s more about enabling everyone to reach their potential, which is collectively limitless. Take away the stultifying deadweight of hierarchy and conformity and let initiative and creativity take us all where it will. We do what we do not to impose a vision but to free people to live out their own vision. Or so I see it anyway.

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@MarkG: the very first line of the Party Constitution actually says we are about social equality.

Pirate Party Australia strives to protect and expand civil and digital liberties, social equality and freedom of culture.

This wasn’t always there, it was added in a recent constitutional amendment which passed with an exceedingly high majority, so it seems the Party is for creating a society of truly equal opportunity.

When the Party began back in 2008 and there were only a handful of us around, and those of us who were there were very concerned about expanding the Party policy set beyond the core policies we had at the time: civil liberties, digital liberties, privacy, intellectual rights reform, legalisation of file sharing, and transparency.

It wasn’t until around 2011 that I came around to the idea of expanding the policy set. Why? When there were only around 20 of us, it didn’t make sense to build in any given direction as it would be too biased by our individual interests. Once we had over 500 members and a stable member base, it made sense to try to build out our policy set based on our core ideals, with members who joined specifically because of those ideals.

With a large enough member base who all joined for the same reasons, we started on a new path that hadn’t really been tried before: how can we build a solid policy set based on an implied philosophy guided purely by our core tenets? There was no little red book, just a bunch of people who held transparency, privacy and civil liberties to a very high standard.

Well, the answer can be found in where we are now. We strongly believe in science-based policy development in all aspects. Based on the policies we currently have, it seems the Party philosophy—the why—could be considered the following series of rough points:

  • We stand against rent-seeking in all of its forms.
  • Government granted monopolies are privileges and not rights, and we stand against monopolies where they are not warranted.
  • Deliberation and transparency is required for a functioning democracy.
  • The only good policy is one that is backed up by solid evidence or exists to find evidence to solve a given problem.
  • All natural persons deserve the right to self-determination in all things, and should they fail in those things, society should help them get back up and try again.
  • Corporations should be considered after natural persons in all situations.
  • Government should not be big or small, but a size proportional to the services that are necessary for it to provide.
  • A strong, free, fair future requires strong, free and fair education system.
  • Strong defence of civil liberties is the core aspect to providing self-determination for the individual, and this necessitates protections such as a Bill of Rights.
  • While civil liberties are necessary for self-determination, without air to breathe, we can’t speak, therefore we must take reasonable measures to protect our environment.
  • That the digital sphere is not separate from “real life”, it is yet another aspect of real life, and as such, there are many analogues that can be applied to the digital situation, and vice versa.
  • That said, there are also many situations where this is not the case, and we recognise this and develop strong policy to suit.
  • Technology can and should be used to enhance political process and discourse.

Each of the points above could have a post all to themselves (and if I ever have time, I might blog about them :smile: ). I have derived all of these points from our current policies and platform, and ultimately Part I of the Party Constitution. The most succinct summary of our raison d’être can be taken straight from the Constitution, and is still as relevant as it was when it was written:

The basic tenets of this movement are free culture, civil liberty and intellectual rights reform.

People will keep trying to shove us on the political spectrum, but I don’t think we fit on any of the main spectrums such as the popularised “Political Compass”-style 2D spectrum of economic and social “left-right”, as the economic axis conflates personal and cooperative enterprise with corporate enterprise. The Pirate movement firmly sides with individual and small, scalable enterprise, not with monolithic, unaccountable multinationals, and therefore cannot be placed on said axis.

If we talk the 1D spectrum, it’s even more confusing and not worth discussing like most things that are one-dimensional.

In conclusion, I hope that our current development path continues unabated, as I’m very proud of where we’re at now, and very excited for where we’re headed in the future. :smiley:


“Equalising people” doesn’t mean social equality. The social form is an important aspect of potential & should be well served in the policies.

I was also going to post my thoughts in here for discussion, but got carried away and put it into a blog post.

Oops. Just noticed I used the exact same title.

Anyway, it’s a really good area to be discussing, because it can open up different approaches to how we think about things, which can lead to policies we’d never considered, or new ways to market the policies we do have to reach the public better.

Thanks for the consciousness raiser.


My eyes. :frowning:


An English friend who’s teased me about Piratey stuff over the years read my post, linked through to this discussion, and now thinks he’s a Pirate.

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I completely agree with the power of understanding ‘why’. Pirate Party Australia already embodies this to a huge extent through its transparent processes and its sited publications. When Pirate Party Australia makes a decision, writes a policy, publishes a press release or a member talks on behalf of the party; anyone can find the answers to ‘why’. You don’t need to be part of a faction, part of the council or even a member of PPAU; IRC, mailing lists, discussion forms, twitter rants, congress and meetups are all open and accessible.

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Somehow it is a relief that you have nearly the same problems like we in the german pirate party… And by the way - Liquid Feedback doesn’t really work, only a small hand full people uses it and it has lost its magic… There are new systems on the way, next weekend we have our national congress to try to fix some problems (and yes, to vote a new “leadership”)…

Thanks for all your blogs, interesting to read.

I would find this blog post instructive:

The comment by Jimmy Wales and reply is also very instructive. Choice quote:

But I’ve actually gone one simpler. A Youtube clip linked in IRC talking about the PPAU described us as “humanists”, and that rung especially true to me: Pirates have faith in people

It’s not even about technology or rent seeking or power structures. These all become the “what”. We’re actually named after the people; As a reaction to the “anti-piracy bureau”. Because “everyone” doesn’t have a name as such, the people representing the people took the moniker “Pirate”.

We care about technology because it can help bring people together, but we’re also wary of its social impact: “Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral”.

We care about freedoms but we’re not Libertarians, because they want to create systems, and we want to create societies. Societies are created by and for people, with people making decisions and people being the beneficiaries. We see regulation as opt-in because seriously why wouldn’t you want to help each other the fuck out?

We care about power structures and accountability but mostly so that we can return that power to the people. Our ideas of direct democracy are rooted around the idea that people can figure it all out somehow.

If you look at every political persuasion out there and their opinion of Pirates, we’re batshit insane, more than the hippies, more than the hard chargers, even more than the nazis, because we put our faith in people. It’s fucking unheard of!


I think that paragraph is a little bit over the top to say the least, especially the nazi comparison (like wtf). If people think we’re “batshit insane” as you said, then why would they support us? Maybe lay off the hyperbole a bit and your point might be clearer. :smirk:

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Perhaps I wasn’t being clear. I don’t mean the Nazi party today, but Hitler’s Nazi party in the 1920s.

Just to put this in context, the Nazi Party started in 1920-ish, and by 1924 had 32 seats in parliament. By 1930 they had close to 20% of the vote. Contrast that with us. While today, people clearly associate the physical “Nazi Party” with the events of WW2, the political techniques and policies of the parties they do vote for aren’t really that different.

So, just to re-iterate – for an average person we are more crazy than the literal Nazi Party.The fact that you don’t believe that just goes to show how much of an optimist you are (according to the data, I mean. I’m a pirate and therefore am equally optimistic).

So, I was thinking about the “No True Scotsman” thing, and the fact that every movement sort of has a manifesto, or some similar thing (an oath?), which crystallises them. One claim is that a document like that defines “the scotsman”, so the “no true scotsman” logical fallacy does not apply. This, obviously, led my mind to this discussion right here.

So, do we want to take some of the ideas here and convert them into the definition of a “true pirate”? Pirates seem to agree passionately and vehemently, so I can’t help but believe we’d be able to whittle something substantial out. We could then put it on our website; a kind of list reading “A Pirate believes…”.

A huge part of movements is identity, that was why I really liked the “you are a pirate” meme going around, because it really connected with identity. If we can make a “model citizen Pirate” and basically place her front-and-center on our website, I believe that would really resonate.


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Go ahead Sunny, make a list.

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Here’s an attempt. Obviously, feel free to edit it :smile: