Interview with David Speers – Sky News PM Agenda – Thursday 30 October 2014






SUBJECT/S: Data retention.

DAVID SPEERS: We are going to return now to the metadata retention bill that was introduced in Parliament today. The Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare joins me now. Thank you for your time. This will be looked at by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. You are actually going to sit on this Committee for this particular inquiry.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Yes I am David, as well as Mark Dreyfus the Shadow Attorney General. It’s important that with legislation as complex and controversial as this that it is properly scrutinised. It’s broader than just national security, it affects people’s privacy, for anyone that has a phone or access to the internet, and it also has potential cost implications as well. So we have said to the Government today, this has been rushed in to the Parliament, it shouldn’t be rushed out. We need to look at this over a couple of months, not over a couple of weeks and that Parliamentary Committee should have myself on it, as well as Mark Dreyfus.

SPEERS: And you would replace Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong, is that right?

CLARE: Probably Stephen Conroy but we’ll sort that out over the next few days and just make sure that we’ve got the right people there to scrutinise this bill.

SPEERS: Just on the timing then, months rather than weeks. You’re saying that you wouldn’t report back, this Committee wouldn’t report back, therefore the legislation couldn’t be passed until next year.

CLARE: That’s right. This is important legislation but it’s not urgent. Police and other law enforcement agencies are not asking for new powers, they are asking to be able to retain access, in the future, to what they use now. That gives us an opportunity to subject this legislation to proper scrutiny and we can do that over the course of the next few months and then the legislation can be debated by the Parliament next year.

SPEERS: You’ve heard the Government today say that there will be clear exemptions for content, such as subject line, and content of emails, web browsing history, mobile phone tracking – none of that can be obtained without a warrant by authorities. Are you more comfortable because of that?

CLARE: The devil is in the detail, as you know better than most. When you start trying to explain what metadata is you can get into a lot of trouble. George Brandis found that out at your expense. Malcolm Turnbull cleaned that up soon after, where he said that it wouldn’t involve web browsing and he’s made the point today in the Parliament that that’s specifically excluded from this legislation.

The Government has now developed a draft data set that they are going to ask a working group of law enforcement officials and industry officials to look at. It will be important once they’ve done their work for the Committee, the Parliamentary Committee, to have a good, hard, close look at that and make recommendations before the Parliament itself debates and votes on this legislation.

SPEERS: In your view should authorities also be able to access this metadata when investigating internet piracy?

CLARE: It’s a very good question. Piracy is an offence now and a lot of people are doing it right now as we speak. The Government has said they are interested in putting forward some reforms here to tackle and target this, I’ve said to the Government that they need to be very careful about the way they do that. People don’t want to see their internet speed slow down or they don’t want to have their internet access shut off because of some legislation that has passed through the Parliament.

The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police made the point today that this legislation could give access to law enforcement officials to identify people that are pirating material. Malcolm Turnbull said that’s happening already and the retention of that data won’t be as important. This is the sort of question that we need to pose to officials when the Committee meets and asks the officials what this legislation will do.

SPEERS: Finally can I also ask you about a separate piece of legislation, the one that George Brandis, the Attorney General, today signalled he’d insert an extra layer of protection on this, what is now law, to jail journalists for up to ten years if they report recklessly on special intelligence operations. The Attorney General now says he would have to approve any prosecution of a journalist. What do you think of that added safeguard?

CLARE: My view David is that there should be arm’s length between government and the prosecution of people. I don’t like the idea of the Attorney General making that decision. Bill Shorten yesterday wrote to the Prime Minister and said the better way to address this issue is to get the National Security Legislation Monitor review this provision that was put in the first tranche of national security legislation. Bret Walker held that position until recently, the Government has got to appoint a new Monitor. I think that’s the better way to go about this. No one has identified a proper legislative solution yet. This is a non-legislative solution that the Government has recommended, I don’t think they’ve got it right and I think a review is the right way to go about it.

SPEERS: Was it a mistake to pass that so quickly?

CLARE: I’d say that the Committee has done good work. There were concerns raised before and after this was passed. No one came up with a legislative solution. I think in the absence of a legislative solution getting the Monitor to go and interrogate this and come back with recommendations is the right way to go about it.

SPEERS: Jason Clare the Shadow Communications Minister, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

CLARE: Thanks David.