CCLs take CITIZENFOUR to Parliament House

On the evening of Monday 9 February NSWCCL - supported by the Victorian, Queensland and South Australian CCLs and Electronic Frontiers Australia - invited our federal members of parliament to a special, pre-release screening of the gripping documentary CITIZENFOUR in Parliament House.

It was a terrific success with MPs from the ALP, Greens and cross benchers as well as staff, journalists and members of the public coming to watch the film and discuss it over drinks afterwards. (Maybe the failure of any liberal MPS to attend was related to their ongoing drama around leadership and policy directions.)  

We held the screening in the nation’s parliament house in the context of the Government’s contentious data-retention bill which Mr Abbot wants to push through Parliament in early March. CITIZENFOUR explores the Snowden revelations about mass data collection and surveillance and his motivations as a whistle-blower in full knowledge of the almost certain devastating personal implications. In telling this story the film provides powerful insights into the astonishing dimensions and significance of metadata collection and analysis and is directly relevant to the debate around the data-retention bill. 

The issues in the bill are very complex and the implications hard to understand. CITIZENFOUR provides some clear and dramatic insights into the technical issues which from the post screening discussion clearly provided many of the non-experts with new understandings of what is at stake if this bill becomes law. 

CITIZENFOUR addresses the core issue in this debate: should democracies collect and hold mass telecommunications data on everyone for subsequent access by government and its agencies? What is the cost to privacy and other freedoms? Will it make us safe from terrorism and major crime?

We wanted our MPs, who will decide whether this bill is compatible with a robust democracy and free media, to see CITIZENFOUR before they vote on it. We thank those who attended. We will continue to encourage those who could not attend the preview to see the film which will be released in Australia on 12 February. We will be doing all we can to assist more members of the ALP and at least some from the Coalition parties to view this documentary over the next few weeks.

Over the next few week we expect to see two very important reports from parliamentary committees reviewing the bill to be published. The debate will intensify at that point. We need to do all we can on every front to persuade our members of parliament that this bill should be rejected for a host of reasons. (See the joint submission by the CCLs)

It is expensive for the public to bring events such as this to Parliament House. Monday’s event was entirely funded by crowd-funding. We thank the individuals and organisations who responded to our request for donations. Senator Scott Ludlam and his office provided huge insider support to gain the necessary approvals and access. This was invaluable assistance. 

See also:
Media release on the screening
Joint CCLs submission to PJCIS inquiry into the Data Retention Bill
Twitter summary: Citizenfour - NSWCCL Screening (Storify, 10/02/15)
Article: Labor MPs react to Edward Snowden doco CitizenFour (Sydney Morning Herald, 11/02/15)
All media on the screening