Greens propose warrants for all under data-retention amendments

The Australian Greens have announced a set of amendments that would force law-enforcement agencies to obtain warrants for all access requests for stored telecommunications data, and has proposed limiting the data being held to just three months.

As the Australian Senate begins to debate the mandatory data-retention legislation this week, the Greens party has proposed a set of amendments that would significantly limit government agency access to the data.

Following the passage of the legislation in the House of Representatives last week, the Senate will now be tasked to debate and pass the legislation with a number of amendments proposed by Labor.

The legislation will require telecommunications companies to retain so-called "metadata" information like call records, billing information, assigned IP addresses, email addresses, location information, and other data for two years for access by law-enforcement agencies without a warrant.

Labor has proposed a number of amendments, including requiring law enforcement to get a secret warrant if they wish to access the data of a journalist in order to locate a source.

The government is aiming to have the legislation passed by the end of this week -- the last sitting week before the Budget in May -- but Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam has announced that he will seek to pass 16 amendments to the legislation.

Among the amendments, agencies would only get access to the data if it was a "serious contravention" of the law, and the journalist warrant would be extended to cover everyone.

The data would only be held for three months instead of two years, and the attorney-general would no longer be able to expand the scope under regulation of who is covered, what data is stored, and what agencies can access the data.

Instead of only providing a number of data requests annually, the government would also be required to keep statistics on the type of data requested, the age of the data, the offence it is related to, and the outcome following the request.

The government would also be required to cover the costs for telcos to store the data, and all data would be required to be stored in Australia -- something not covered under the legislation as it is currently written.

The definition of a journalist would be wider, too, to ensure that not just those engaged or employed as a journalist would come under the warrant scheme.

"Our amendments address major privacy and security protections that are being stripped away by the Abbott/Shorten surveillance unity ticket," Ludlam said.

"This debate has shown quickly the ALP is willing to fall into step with Tony Abbott, and without these amendments, any Australian who uses a phone or internet device will be caught. The onus is now on the ALP to help fix this Bill, not just wave it through the Senate."

In the Senate today, Ludlam said the legislation would "entrench massive, passive surveillance". Labor Senator Jacinta Collins said Labor had sought to strike a balance, and was stuck "between a rock and a hard place" with the government pushing the legislation while the Greens had mounted a scare campaign.

Collins said that the government and the Greens had made it "difficult to have an open and honest conversation" about the need for law enforcement to have access to stored telecommunications data.

The Greens amendments will fail to pass if the government senators and Labor senators oppose the amendments.