More and more Australians are using the internet in their everyday lives; for education, business, to shop, to socialise, and plan their travel.
It's virtually impossible for an individual to engage with the wider world if they can't access the internet, and Australians are some of the heaviest users of the internet in the world. Yet we lag way behind in the protection of our rights online.
Spain, France and Finland are among the growing number of nations are protecting this access through legal provisions, but here in Australia even attempts at discussion or advocacy are hastily shot down by both the Labor and Liberal parties.
The Australian Greens have a plan for an independent Human Rights Commissioner for digital rights, to advocate for the online safety, accessibility, privacy and security of all Australians.
A Digital Rights Commissioner, working within the Australian Human Rights Commission, will work to scrutinise legislation, and will advise governments, departments and the general public on the effect of proposals, programs and legislation. The Human Rights Commission achieves their objective through education, legal advice, public advocacy and research.
Until now, debates about digital rights in Australia have almost entirely been reactive; to the Snowden disclosures, the mandatory data retention scheme, or the internet filter. Those discussions centred on the false choice between individual privacy or national security. An independent Digital Rights Commissioner will begin to change that, and help to bring forward informed debate about all of the impacts of proposed or possible legislation on our rights online. The Commissioner will help prevent the further erosion of those rights.
During the worst years of the Abbott Government, the Labor Party was exposed as deeply complicit in the erosion of digital rights as the government. The opposition submitted to successive waves of flawed legislation while maintaining the pretence of providing a check and balance through the compliant ‘Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security’. It was left to the Australian Greens and a handful of crossbenchers to provide the voice of opposition.
But it's not just data retention, or the new facial recognition capability. It's not just privacy that is under attack; the government and opposition have shown startling illiteracy around issues such as encryption, which millions of Australians rely on for their banking and secure communication. An independent advocate will help address vulnerability to online fraud and theft, well before ill-considered proposals become law.
The Commissioner will work towards universal access, so that Australians in rural and remote regions, and Australians with disabilities are not left behind in the technological change.
The Digital Rights Commissioner will be an additional Human Rights Commissioner, and will not replace any existing capacity. The Parliamentary Budget Office has costed the Greens plan for a Digital rights Commissioner at $1.3 million over the forward estimates.
Read our full plan for a Digital Rights Commissioner.