The Surveillance State in Australia - Australian Fabians Former Site - For Page Transfers

The Surveillance State in Australia

Tuesday - 24 September, 2019 - 06:00 PM

Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub - Blue Room - Melbourne, Australia


The rise of the internet has led perversely not to a global commons where ideas are shared and political freedoms increased, despite the promises of a libertarian Silicon Valley.

Instead a storm of data has been collected on all of us, driven by commercial imperatives and global and local political power positioning.

The irresistible urge of governments to know more about their citizens to their own political advantage add another - antidemocratic - rationale to the uses of personal citizen data by powerful organisations that do not necessarily have the best interests of people as citizens at heart. The rise and spectacular sophistication of the Chinese social credit system is a monument to the marriage of artificial intelligence with western liberal economic theories of behavioural management.

In Australia Governments are both collecting and joining up data and adding surveillance systems for biodata that includes but also goes beyond facial recognition. A good deal of this is covert collection and use. They can add this to data they buy from commercial organisations.

Political parties here are also building sophisticated models of the voter to use for persuasion or manipulation. But Australian Governments are increasingly also turning to these tools to repress politically uncomfortable facts, or to prevent the sort of information which should be transparent for the greater good of government integrity, from being found out or shared.

Recent examples include:

  • AFP raids
  • Repressive and invasive National Security legislation
  • Foreign surveillance
  • Corporate surveillance
  • The whittling away of Whistle Blower protections
  • Government and employer restriction on free political speech of public servants and employees.
  • The chilling effect of all the above on both journalists and citizens capacity to speak out where they see wrongs committed especially by people with power.

This event will explore the motives, the tools and the effects of the growing Surveillance State in Australia.



Professor Moira Paterson (Monash University Faculty of Law)

Professor Moira Paterson teaches and researches in field of information law, with a key focus on freedom of information, privacy and data protection, health records and public records law.

She is the author of Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia: Government and Information Access in the Modern State (LexisNexis, 2005) and Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia: Information Access 2.0 (LexisNexis, 2015).

Moira was previously a member of the former Privacy Advisory Committee to the Australian Information Commissioner and a member of Advisory Committees to the ALRC for its references in relation to the Privacy Act 1988 and Commonwealth secrecy laws.

Moira also researches the impact of political parties use of electoral data, and the freedoms to use citizen data that are not covered by the Privacy Act, the Electoral Act and other related Acts.

She has been a member of the Open Government Partnership citizen's forum.



James Horton (Datanomics)

Mr James Horton is the founder and CEO of Datanomics, which develops data sharing platforms for industry, public and research sectors. Datanomics also provides advisory services in relation to data ethics, data governance and data management.

James has a deep interest in data ethics and an insider knowledge of the Australian Public service. He understands about the data safeguards used (or not) by the Australian Public Service.

He is also a member of the Open Government Partnership citizen's forum.

Table discussion and a plenary will follow the speakers’ talks, and all are invited to join us for dinner afterwards at the Captain Melville Hotel.

Further Reading:

The Minefield, ABC RN: Can democracy survive the rise of surveillance capitalism? Wednesday 21 August 2019 11:30AM.

Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. March 2019.

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