Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 29 October 2014






SUBJECT/S: National Security; Data retention

KIERAN GILBERT: We are joined by Labor frontbencher Jason Clare. Jason Clare thanks for your time. I want to ask you about this story in the West Australian Newspaper, Nick Butterly reports that ASIS has requested, essentially, the powers to tell the military where Australian foreign fighters are in these conflict zones and then potentially they could be targeted militarily. Is this unusual? What’s your reaction to it?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: This is a new proposal. It wasn’t part of the Foreign Fighters Bill that’s being debated in the Parliament now. We understand the Government’s going to bring this forward as legislation to be considered this year. If that’s the case then it needs to be considered by the same Parliamentary Committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security that’s done good work on the first two Bills and they need to scrutinise that legislation and go through the details.

GILBERT: What’s your view on the data retention proposals, this is obviously in your area of responsibility as Shadow Communications Minister. As I understand it, Scott Ludlam, the Greens spokesperson is going to be making a move on this issue today. Is the Labor Party inclined to support the changes?

CLARE: This is not urgent unlike the other Bills. It’s not urgent. Law enforcement agencies are asking for the ability to keep the powers that they currently have, they are saying they are not asking for new powers, they want to be able to continue to keep the data that they currently use. Now that gives us the opportunity to give this full scrutiny and proper scrutiny.

We have asked the Attorney-General, George Brandis yesterday to release a public exposure draft of that bill. That’s what he proposed last year. We are asking him to be good to his word. Release that for full public consultation and then a proper parliamentary inquiry to go through the details of it because it’s broader than national security, it also goes to privacy. Everyone has got a phone, almost everyone has got a computer and this will affect everybody. It also potentially has taxation implications as well because if companies have to hold data longer then it’s going to cost them more to store that data and that’s potentially a tax that will be passed on to everybody that owns a phone or a computer.

GILBERT: In terms of, you alluded to this earlier but my understanding is that the intelligence agencies want to keep the status quo, that telcos operations have evolved therefore they are not keeping people’s records as long as they have been, but as a now Communications spokesman but as a former Home Affairs Minister you’d be well aware of how important this sort of information is to the security agencies.

CLARE: Indeed, I think I’ve said to you before there’s not too many law enforcement investigations or national security activities that don’t involve the use of this data, so we understand how important it is, but we also understand that introducing legislation like this has potentially very large implications for everybody that has a phone or has access to the internet. So we need to make sure that we get the legislation right. There is no need to rush this. We need a public exposure draft so that the whole of the Australian community gets to have a good look at what the Government’s proposing and then we need a parliamentary committee to go through it in detail.

GILBERT: In terms of the overall counter-terrorism legislation there’s been a lot of criticism after the passage of the first tranche of legislation around the, particularly the focus on whistleblowers and journalists, are you comfortable yourself with that provision? Is the Labor Party looking to have another look at that? Should it be revised? What’s Labor’s view on that?

CLARE: I think by and large the parliamentary committee process has done a very good job. The more time you get to look at these Bills the more you can identify some of the weaknesses or mistakes and that avoids having to go back and make changes. Now the argument from the Government there is that a journalist who doesn’t act recklessly and who doesn’t knowingly release information about a special investigation won’t be subject to criminal prosecution. We’d hope that that is right.