Melanie Thomas

Melanie Thomas is the president of the Pirate Party

For what many would consider to be a fringe party or a single issue party, The Pirate Party (TPP) is incredibly well organised. Its website has links to its constitution and to a set of policies on issues from civil liberties to education.

The party has its roots in Europe (it was started in Sweden in 2006) and now has a presence in over 50 countries including the UK and the US. It says of itself: “We exist to campaign for a free society where civil liberties are respected. We believe in the right to privacy for individuals and the need for transparency for organisations. The government is meant to serve the people and by fighting for these principles we believe it can.”

The Pirate Party International (PPI) oversees all Pirate Parties, providing policy consistency on key issues such as copyright reform and intellectual property, civil liberties and digital rights.

In Australia, candidate Melanie Thomas said the party has expanded its policy set to cover issues such as asylum seekers and marriage equality.

Ms Thomas is the party’s deputy president. In late her thirties, she has been working in media for 14 years, and has studied communication, editing and publishing. The Party’s first foray into the Australian election process was in 2013 when Ms Thomas stood as a senate candidate for Queensland. This is the first election at which the party has fielded a candidate for the house of representatives.

Ms Thomas has been active on Twitter in the lead up to the by-election, indicating that key issues for the The Pirate Party are the rights of asylum seekers, the Newman government’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill (VLAD) and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement negotiations (TPP).

Of her entry into politics, Ms Thomas said: “In the background I have always had a social conscience. I have always considered myself an environmentalist. I always voted Green. I also have a keen interest in human rights, and social justice. I have always attended protests and been an organiser, but I guess I came to a critical point where I needed to take what I was feeling to the next level”.

“When the Pirate Party came along, it just jumped out at me. I never actually joined the Greens even though I had voted for them, but the policies of the Pirate Party just spoke to me.”

Ms Thomas says that while the party is not financially well resourced, it has a number of members who are lawyers or who have studied law and “that helps us in terms of correct procedures for research and legislation and the like.”

She said the party drew a very positive response during the 2013 election. “We ran a grassroots campaign and had a phenomenal response, especially on social media and Twitter”.

“The #votepirate hashtag went crazy around the time of the election. We were amazed. Our purpose in 2013 was to raise our profile and we achieved that.

“I think people are slowly beginning to see that we are not just a single issue party,” she added. “The name ‘pirate party’ confuses people. They think we are a joke party. Then when we explain, we are reclaiming a name that governments have given people who share files – they call that piracy and give it a negative connotation, when in fact sharing is human instinct. We are reclaiming that name and are proud of it.”

The Pirate Party considers that current copyright laws are no longer relevant to our digital media age. It considers that society has made a “generational shift in the way we relate to and participate in culture” and that a new paradigm is required.

The current national membership sits at about 2000, Ms Thomas said, and the party has been using this by-election to actively recruit new members.

Ms Thomas said she is campaigning out on the street as she did in 2013 and is picking up a lot discontent with the Coalition.

“A hell of a lot of people are now discontented with the two parties who have a monopoly over Australian politics. We are sending a message to both parties. We think the ALP has sold out its membership on several issues, but asylum seekers is the big one as well as marriage equality. They have completely lacked courage and bowed to the more right wing elements in this country. We are fighting bravely on our polices and will not bow to anybody.”

On preferences, Ms Thomas said in the last election the party was most strongly aligned with the Greens, and its preferences flowed to them followed by other left wing parties.
The Pirate Party has a Facebook site, and a website, and Ms Thomas tweets as @photogramel.

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