Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis said while some privacy concerns about data retention proposals were valid, others had been “inflated by lack of understanding of the underlying safeguards in existing legislation”. Photo: Andrew Meares
A long-awaited report into wide-ranging national security reforms, including a proposal to keep data about Australians' telephone and internet use for up to two years, will be tabled in Parliament next month, according to shadow Attorney-General Senator George Brandis.
The report comes almost a year after former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced the inquiry. The federal government was due to table the report at the end of last year.
It will provide the first public insight from the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, on whether the federal government should progress with an expansion to powers available to security agencies like the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Among the proposals were reforms to warrant processes and requirements that telecommunications companies share details about their critical infrastructure. Others would effectively give some agencies power to infiltrate Australian computers in the course of investigations.
PROPOSAL TO RETAIN DATA FOR UP TO TWO YEARS
However, one of the more contentious proposals was an expanded regime to collect metadata - all details relating to who users called or sent messages to, or what websites they visited - over a period of up to two years.
Federal and state agencies have increasingly used the existing warrantless system to collect metadata on suspected criminals, with a 20 per cent spike to 304,437 total intercepts during the 2011-12 financial year. Under the proposed regime, however, internet service providers and carriers would be required to keep the data for up to two years regardless of an investigation.
Documents released under Freedom of Information legislation last month revealed ongoing concerns over the effect the regime would have on user privacy and the telecommunications industry.
PRIVACY CONCERNS INFLATED
The timing of the report's publication has reduced the possibility of the current government pushing through legislation before the federal election on September 14.
Senator Brandis, who sits on the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, said that while some public concerns over privacy surrounding the regime were valid, others had been "inflated by lack of understanding of the underlying safeguards in existing legislation".
"I have no doubt that the tabling of the report will not be the end of the discussion on this important issue," he said. "Considerations of the rights of the individual and in particular privacy considerations will and should always impose constraint on what governments would otherwise do in the fight against terrorism."
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