A concerted effort is needed from technology, innovation and digital rights groups to unite and ensure tech issues are on the agenda in the next Parliament, according to Electronic Frontiers Australia chair Lyndsey Jackson.
A coalition of digital rights groups, including EFA, Digital Rights Watch, Future Wise, the Australian Privacy Foundation and a number of tech companies, has launched a fundraising campaign to lobby during and after the upcoming federal election.
It has raised nearly $10,000 in less than a week. The full $10,000 will be matched by the groups’ donor pool.
The money will be used to form a campaign team to coordinate efforts to get tech issues into the mainstream and lobby politicians on existing and potential legislation, Ms Jackson said.
“The first step is to bring people together within technology, within business and within civil society, and to get the internet back on the agenda during this campaign period,” Ms Jackson told InnovationAus.com.
“It feels like it’s been dropped for a range of reasons, notwithstanding the politicising of internet policy that occurred in the close of Parliament.”
“There really hasn’t been very much around policy, internet and innovation. It seems to be something that politicians on both sides are shying away from.”
A number of tech-focused pieces of legislation have been recently rushed through Parliament with little or no consultation or engagement with the wider tech sector, primarily including the encryption powers and social media legislation.
“The dying days of the 45th Australian Parliament saw another set of terrible laws rushed through without the involvement of digital rights groups, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen in the 46th Parliament,” the campaign said.
“We’ve steadily lost ground on our rights to privacy, to security and to ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard. The local tech industry, and digital rights groups like us, keep getting ignored,” she said.
“We can’t keep doing the same things we’ve always done because we know they don’t work. It’s time for change.”
The passing of the encryption and social media bills led to a wider conversation around lobbying efforts from the sector, and how to work with policy-makers in the future.
The current sector is fractured and does not coordinate effectively, Ms Jackson said.
“Civil society does a really good job of coming together and working together, but the businesses I speak to do things individually. The business voice still seems to be quite fractured. We need cohesion across business, the economy and civil society,” she said.
While the group will use some of the funding to produce content and promote positive tech policies during the election campaign, it will also focus on providing a more effective voice in the next Parliament.
“There will be a new government in whatever form that takes. We want to be well positioned to be able to support the government. We want to collectively be on the radar of the incumbent government,” Ms Jackson said.