Abbott brings on mandatory data retention in Australia

Abbott brings on mandatory data retention in Australia

Summary: Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed he is developing legislation that would require telecommunications companies to retain customer data.


Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed that the Federal Cabinet today gave in principle support for a new regime that would force telecommunications companies to retain an as-yet-undetermined amount of customer data for up to two years to allow government agencies to access without a warrant as part of law enforcement investigations.

(Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Brandis, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, this afternoon said that two new tranches of expanded anti-terrorism laws will be introduced, and intelligence agencies will be given an additional AU$630 million from the budget to "boost counterterrorism capabilities".

The second tranche that will expand the anti-terrorism powers — including broadening the definition of terrorism to include supporting or promoting terrorism — will be introduced in the first week of the Spring sitting of Parliament, while Brandis said he had been given "in principle" approval by the Federal Cabinet to begin developing a mandatory data retention proposal that would be put to the parliament later this year.

"I've also been asked to develop, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, a system of mandatory data retention," Brandis said.

The type of data the government would like telcos to retain for agencies to access without a warrant has not yet been revealed, but Abbott said there would be safeguards to protect privacy.

It is unclear at this point who will bear the cost for ISPs to develop systems to retain the data, whether it be the ISPs and their customers, or the government and taxpayers.

iiNet has estimated that the cost of developing such a system would cost the company AU$100 million in the first two years. Brandis said that the cost would be determined through negotiations with industry.

"The question of the cost is something that the government is currently in discussion with the telcos concerning," he said.

Abbott said that the legislation for mandatory data retention would get scrutiny through the parliamentary process.

"I am confident that while the Labor Party has traditionally offered bipartisan support in the security area, we will need to get them on side," he said.

Brandis said that the approach to the raft of new national security legislation was done with a view to protect freedom, and said that he approached the changes with "a very strong prejudice against expanding powers of the state, and against winding back traditional rights and freedoms."

Plans for the data retention proposal were leaked to the media this morning before Cabinet had a chance to approve the scheme. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was noticably absent from the press conference this afternoon, warned against implementing such a regime when it was flagged by the former Labor government in 2012.

"This data retention proposal is only the latest effort by the Gillard Government to restrain freedom of speech," he said at the time.

"I must record my very grave misgivings about the proposal. It seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction.

"Surely as we reflect on the consequences of the digital shift from a default of forgetting to one of perpetual memory we should be seeking to restore as far as possible the individual's right not simply to their privacy but to having the right to delete that which they have created in the same way as can be done in the analogue world."

Topics: Privacy, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • To be consistent...

    Consistent data policy would dictate that Australia Post should open all mail to photocopy and file copies of every page of mail they handle and that the cost of copying, storing and providing this information freely to the government should be borne by Australia Post.

    Perhaps eavesdropping equipment should also be installed in private homes, businesses and public places for the collection and storage of other private conversations not transmitted by telephone or the internet.
  • At What Cost?

    Every email, phone call & webpage visit from everyone in the country stored for 2 years?
    Considering the "Budget Emergency" Do you want CBA's with that?
  • Our Budget Emergencies, the APO and a CBA ?

    The way CBA's are done by this government, it will take from 2-5 years by which time it won't matter. We'll have a new government & that will require a new infinitum !

    Both the APO, which is bleeding $$'s with a red bottom line & any bureaucracy will take their own sweet time, at huge expense to the tax payer.

    The APO will say bring it on, because ALL bureaucracies love expanding their enterprise... & why you may ask ?

    It's the nature of bureaucracies (Google & Read Parkinson's Laws of bureaucratic behaviour, they're priceless).

    Because it's not their money ... most bureaucrats don't care.