Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam has questioned the Federal Government in the Senate over a controversial new proposal that could see Australians' web browsing, email and telephone records tracked by internet services providers.
Ludlam asked Senator Penny Wong (representing Attorney-General Robert McClelland) in the Senate this afternoon whether the government was considering a proposal that would see such records kept.
In reply, Wong appeared to read out a prepared response that bore a close resemblance to statements the government has previously issued on the matter.
"I understand the Attorney-General's Department has been consulting with industry with relation to continuing availability of telecommunications data with reference to law enforcement purposes," Wong said, noting the information would be valuable in identifying criminal activities and terrorist networks.
She added that the proposal would not see the content of communications tracked — only information that would allow people to be identified online.
Wong said that technology had changed the way telecommunications companies operated, and that the government was keen to maintain access to the data.
Ludlam also asked Wong whether the government had costed the proposal, or whether it expected the industry to fund it, and what had industry told the government in the consultations. In addition, he asked whether the government was planning to consult with the public about the proposal, or whether it would "repeat the experience of the mandatory internet filter".
Wong said the proposal would need to meet a good balance between a number of different areas of concern — such as privacy, law enforcement needs, commercial imperatives and so on. She also noted that the Attorney-General's Department has had ongoing consultations with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner over the matter, and any proposal would be considered with relevance to privacy legislation.
However, Wong appeared to imply that not all of Ludlam's questions could be answered just yet. "Your question really goes to what the final detail of any proposal would indicate," she said.
Ludlam didn't appear to believe the exchange delivered any insight. "One of those moments when you end up knowing less than before you asked the question," he said on Twitter afterwards.