Interview with Lyndal Curtis – ABC News 24 – Thursday 30 October 2014






SUBJECT/S: Data Retention

LYNDAL CURTIS: For the Opposition’s view I’m joined in the studio now by the Opposition’s communications spokesman, Jason Clare. Jason Clare welcome to ABC News 24. What is Labor’s position on metadata retention?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: This is a bill that’s been rushed into the Parliament. Our view is that it shouldn’t be rushed out. It’s complex and controversial and it’s broader than national security. It involves privacy concerns for everyone who’s got a mobile phone or access to the internet and potential cost concerns as you mentioned.

Our view is that it needs to be subject to serious scrutiny and we’ve made that point to the Government today. We’ve said this shouldn’t be passed though the Parliament in the next few weeks, it needs a couple of months of consideration by the Parliamentary Committee and the Government’s agreed to that. That’s a good outcome. They have also agreed to make changes to the composition of the Committee so that Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney and myself can sit on that Committee and that will enable proper scrutiny of what is pretty complex and technical legislation.

CURTIS: So when now is the Committee due to report back?

CLARE: The Committee would report back next year, we will have to finalise what that date would be. That would mean that the working group that the Minister referred to today, that involves law enforcement, the Department as well as people from industry can do their work to give us better information on how much this will cost and what the sort of dataset or metadata is that they are talking about, then the Committee can look at that work, interrogate that information, scrutinise it, make sure that the legislation that is put forward is the right legislation and then the Parliament can debate that legislation next year.

CURTIS: Have you sought any assurances from the Government about the length of that Parliamentary debate because there are others in the Parliament who aren’t from the Government, who aren’t from the Labor Party who are not part of the joint committee on intelligence who presumably would like a say and would like the opportunity to raise their concerns.

CLARE: It’s a good point. This is a discussion that has to be had right across the country because everyone is affected. We made the point earlier this week that we thought there should be a public exposure draft of this legislation. Sit it on the table of the Parliament, allow the whole country to look at this and have a conversation about it. That’s what the Parliamentary Committee recommended last year when it looked at this. Unfortunately the Government has decided not to do that but by extending the length of the Committee, incorporating myself and Mark Dreyfus onto the Committee that means that we’ve got more time to look at the detail – and as you know the devil is always in the detail.

CURTIS: This proposal last came up when you were last in Government but you decided not to proceed with it. If you decided not to proceed with it then, why should you give it a chance of an airing now?

CLARE: That’s a good point. The case has to be made out. Law enforcement needs to make the case and explain to the Parliament what they need and why they need it and potentially they might be able to tell us that they can get what they need in another way. We also need to hear from the telecommunications industry about how this will affect them and also over the top providers, people like Facebook or Google and how this will affect them.

It’s important to remember that telcos come in all shapes and sizes, you’ve got the big one in Telstra but there is also telcos that might only have fifty customers and it would affect them differently. As I said, it’s also going to affect the general public. If the cost of this is not entirely borne by the government then the telcos, the ISP’s will have to pay to store this data and they will pass that on to their customers, which people are calling an internet tax.

CURTIS: Now we’ve talked a lot about the concern, I wanted to ask you a question on the flip side of the argument, this information is already being collected now, it is available to a wide range of agencies, not just the Government security agencies and people also willing give much more information to online companies for online shopping. Is the concern about metadata overblown?

CLARE: Well because they consent to give that information in exchange for working with that organisation. In this case this is data that will be available to government not for any business related purpose. Lyndal I’m the former Home Affairs Minister I understand the work our law enforcement agencies do, I’ve been working in that area for twenty years. I understand how important metadata is, in stopping crime and solving crime. We want to make sure that our law enforcement agencies have got the powers that they need to do their job but as Parliamentarians knowing that it will affect all Australians we’ve got an obligation and now and opportunity to scrutinise this legislation properly.

CURTIS: One final issue, has Labor been too quick to sign up to the Government’s anti-terrorism laws because you are worried about the reaction if you don’t, given that Bill Shorten, your leader, now has second thoughts about the potential for jailing journalists that was included in the first instalment of counter-terrorism legislation , which has passed through both houses of Parliament.

CLARE: I think the Parliamentary Committee has done a good job and they’ve had to look at all of these issues very quickly. Since that bill’s passed through the Parliament there has been concerns raised –

CURTIS: Concerns were raised at the time and they were raised by Senators, probably before the media started becoming concerned. So the concerns were around at the time.

CLARE: So before and after, and what Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition has said is that the National Security Intelligence Monitor should conduct a review here. I think that’s a better approach than relying on the Attorney General to make decisions about who is prosecuted and who isn’t.

CURTIS: Would it have been a better approach not to actually consent to that part of the Bill being passed in the first place?

CLARE: As I said, I think the Committee has done a good job in very tight timeframes. The argument from the Attorney General that if a journalist is acting in good faith and is not acting recklessly then they won’t be affected by this provision. You wouldn’t want a journalist going to jail for doing their job. We’ve been talking about this with Peter Greste in Egypt. The argument from the Government is that this is the same as with the AFP in the circumstances of a controlled operation.

What the Opposition has said is, given the concern about this let’s have another look at this and let’s have the National Security Intelligence Monitor, the role that Bret Walker played and that now we hope someone is appointed to conduct this work, have a better look at this provision, in this legislation.

CURTIS: Jason Clare thank you very much for your time.

CLARE: Thanks Lyndal.