The Surveillance State in Australia



The rise of the internet as a global commons where ideas are shared and political freedoms increased has ever been the fantasy of a libertarian Silicon Valley.

However a storm of data has been collected on all of us, driven by commercial imperatives, and this data goldmine (collected freely) has played an increasingly important role in global and local power positioning, both political and commercial.

Governments are both collecting and analysing ever greater amounts of data on their citizens, in combination with increasingly sophisticated surveillance systems using biometrics such as facial recognition. Much of this collection and use is covert, and supplemented by what they can buy from the commercial data collection goldmines.

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 Western democracies political parties are building ever more sophisticated models of voters for the purposes of persuasion and manipulation. Governments are increasingly also turning to such tools to repress politically uncomfortable facts, or to prevent information of public interest and government integrity, from being revealed or shared.

Recent examples in Australia include:

  • AFP raids
  • Repressive and invasive National Security legislation
  • Foreign surveillance
  • Corporate surveillance
  • The whittling away of Whistle Blower protections
  • Government/employer restrictions on free political speech of public servants/employees
  • The chilling effect of these on journalists’ and citizens’ capacity to speak truth to power 

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




Professor Moira Paterson (Monash University Faculty of Law)

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

She has been a member of the Open Government Partnership citizens’ forum. 



James Horton (Datanomics)

James Horton is the founder and CEO of Datanomics, which develops data sharing platforms for industry, as well as the 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 (APS), including the data safeguards used (or not) by the APS.

He is also a member of the Open Government Partnership citizens’ forum. 


Table discussion and a plenary will follow the speakers’ talks, and you 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.


Pre-purchase tickets below, or RSVP without purchasing a ticket (pay at the door). 


  • September 24, 2019 at 6pm – 9pm
  • Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub - Blue Room
    506 Elizabeth St
    Melbourne, VIC 3000
    Google map and directions
  • $5.00 AUD
  • 11 people are going
  • Julia Thorton


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$10.00 Non-Fabians Member Ticket

For Non-members.

$5.00 Fabians Member Ticket

For Australian Fabian Society members.

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