Data Retention Bill passed by Parliament

26 March 2015

Joint media release

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC

Minister for Communications
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 (the Bill) was passed by Parliament today.

By passing this Bill, the Parliament has ensured that our security and law enforcement agencies will continue to have access to the information they need to do their jobs. No responsible government can sit by while those who protect us lose access to vital information, particularly in the current high threat environment.

At the same time, the Bill contains safeguards to protect our cherished rights and liberties, including through the establishment of additional oversight mechanisms covering the security and law enforcement agencies.

Metadata is the basic building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and organised crime investigation. It is also essential for child abuse and child pornography offences that are frequently carried out online.

A victim’s right to justice, and agencies’ ability to solve crimes, shouldn’t depend on which service provider is used by the victims and perpetrators.

The Bill ensures that telecommunications providers will be required to retain a defined set of data for a period of two years. This will substantially improve the availability of data should it be necessary for a particular investigation.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) examined the Bill at length and concluded that the Bill is “a necessary, effective and proportionate response to the serious threat to national security and public safety caused by the inconsistent and degrading availability of telecommunications data”.

We also recognise that the right to privacy and the principle of freedom of the press are fundamental to our democracy. For these reasons, the Bill contains new and strengthened safeguards. These include the provision of new oversight powers to the Commonwealth Ombudsman; a reduction in the number of agencies accessing metadata from over 80 to 21; and specific protections for journalists and their sources.

No comparable nations will have greater pre-authorisation approval and post-authorisation oversight requirements for journalists.

The Government acknowledges the important work of two PJCIS inquiries and in particular the efforts of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Mr Dan Tehan MP and the Hon Anthony Byrne MP. The Government would also like to acknowledge the telecommunications industry, media and other stakeholders who have been part of the ongoing consultation undertaken to achieve this crucial outcome for national security and law enforcement.

This represents the fourth tranche of national security legislation the Abbott Government has successfully implemented since October 2014. Through these laws, the Government has addressed pressing gaps and needs in Australia’s national security and law enforcement framework.

We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our agencies have the resources and powers they need to keep our community safe.