Ludlam calls for Labor to be an opposition on data retention

The Australian Greens party is aiming to smoke the Labor senators out on mandatory data retention and secure enough votes to ensure that the planned legislation cannot pass the Senate.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

When legislation passed the parliament last week, rapidly expanding surveillance powers in Australia and allowing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to gain access to virtually any computer or device with a single warrant, it ultimately went through without a formal vote count because fewer than five MPs voiced their opposition to it.

Labor's Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus insisted that the opposition had ensured that enough safeguards were included in the new legislation to support the government.

In the Senate, however, when the amended legislation was first passed, there were 12 independent and Greens senators who did vote against the legislation. And it is there that Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam is hoping to smoke out an additional 25 votes from the Labor party to block the upcoming mandatory data retention legislation.

"Can we please make the internet uninhabitable for Labor senators for the next two weeks?," Ludlam asked the Communications Day Congress in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Ludlam last week launched an online campaign calling for the public to create memes designed to drive the Labor party out against mandatory data retention. Ludlam said that the public outcry about the last national security legislation passed had encouraged him to draw attention to mandatory data retention now.

"I found it an immensely curious phenomenon, that in the aftermath of the ASIO Bill ... there was this weird outpouring of betrayal in the media and online of 'how on earth could we have let this happen?'," Ludlam said.

"Yet, the backlash, and the campaigns, and the counterarguments weren't really put into the field until it was too late, and after the Bill had passed the parliament.

"Please, can we not let that happen with data retention? Seeing this one coming, I'm hoping to prevent this from happening in the first place. This is a dumb idea. This is not necessary, and the case has not been made."

Attorney-General George Brandis has said that the government will soon introduce legislation that would force internet service providers to retain an as-yet-undefined set of information about customers such as physical addresses, IP addresses, call records, and other information for up to two years for access by government agencies without a warrant.

Ludlam said that the telecommunications industry had done well in stepping up to protect consumer rights publicly, in the absence of a Bill of Rights or a civil rights movement in Australia, but he said that they also needed to encourage Labor to "step up and start behaving the hell like an opposition party" to oppose the measures.

"We need opposition parties in this country at the moment, rather than writing [Prime Minister Tony] Abbott a blank cheque which he is busy cashing in ways I think we will regret when people calm down," he said.

Ludlam said "cat gifs won't win this campaign", and that the public should be calling, emailing, and reaching out to their elected representatives to win over support.

"We can't do it by ourselves," he said.

Mandatory data retention was first floated by the then-Labor government privately to the telecommunications industry in 2009, and again in 2012 before then-Attorney General Mark Dreyfus shelved plans prior to the election.

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