Improved safeguards and oversight recommended by Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

Labor welcomes the release of the report of Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s Inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014.

Labor has taken a bipartisan approach to ensuring Australia’s national security and fighting terrorism. While it is critical security agencies have the powers they need, we must strike the right balance between enhancing our security and protecting the rights and liberties of Australians.

Labor wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this month outlining a number of concerns with the initial legislation. Labor members of the Committee have worked hard to achieve significant improvements to the Bill, including a substantial strengthening of privacy protections, safeguards and oversight of the regime.

We have ensured for the first time ever the Parliament’s Intelligence Committee will have operational oversight over security agencies, a first step towards the reforms recommended by John Faulkner.

The Committee also recommends oversight of any access to telecommunications data by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and the Ombudsman.

Labor believes that freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. No agreement was reached on the issue of access to journalists’ telecommunications data and specifically protecting journalists’ sources.

Labor believes in principle that access to journalists’ telecommunications data for the purposes of identifying sources should require authorisation via a warrant. This will be further considered in a separate inquiry to report to the Parliament no later than May this year. Labor members of the Intelligence Committee are ready to commence this review immediately.

The Committee has made 37 recommendations including:

• Listing the dataset in the Bill itself, so we know what data is being retained.

• Limiting access to telecommunications data to only those enforcement agencies specifically listed in the Bill.

• Oversight of the operational use of this legislation by Parliament’s Intelligence Committee, the first time the Committee has been given this power.

• Authorising ASIC and the ACCC to access telecommunications data to assist in the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime.

• Requiring telecommunications companies to provide customers access to their own telecommunications data upon request.

• Requiring stored data to be encrypted to protect the security and the integrity of personal information.

• Prohibiting access to telecommunications data for the purposes of civil proceedings, for example preventing its use in copyright enforcement.

• Requiring a mandatory data breach notification scheme, to ensure telecommunications companies notify consumers if the security of their telecommunications data is breached.

• Increasing the resources of the Ombudsman to strengthen oversight of the mandatory data retention scheme.

• A mandatory review of the data retention scheme by no later than four years from the commencement of the Bill.

Labor looks forward to the Government’s response to the Committee’s report. Labor will make our final position known when the Government provides its amended legislation to ensure all the recommendations of the PJCIS have been fully accepted.

The letter the Opposition Leader sent to the Prime Minister outlining Labor’s concerns earlier this month is attached.