Interview with David Lipson – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 6 August 2014





SUBJECT/S: Data retention; Abbott Government’s back down on repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

DAVID LIPSON: Your watching AM Agenda, thanks so much for your company, and this morning I am joined now by Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare.

Thanks for joining us this morning. I want to start with the Governments proposed changes to terror laws, when you were the Home Affairs Minister under the Labor Government there was a similar push in some of these areas, for example the collection of method data, but in the end Labor got cold feet if you like and didn’t proceed with those changes. Why was that, what were the concerns at the time?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: It’s important that our law enforcement agencies have got the powers that they need. That they’ve got the right powers, to keep Australian’s safe. They use this information already. When people make a phone call or use the internet they leave a digital fingerprint, and whether it’s law enforcement agencies or our national security agencies they both use this sort of information in their investigations.

The real question here is, as the amount of data that is produced continues to increase over time, should internet companies be required to store and keep all that data for extended periods of time when it’s not part of their normal course of business. Now that’s an important question to ask. When the now government was in opposition they said they had grave misgivings about this, we think that this is something that really needs to tested and properly analysed, it needs to involve consultation with all members of parliament, but also with the general community.

LIPSON: Isn’t there some urgency though to getting these laws into place. I mean David Irvine for one, Head of ASIO said that these changes are crucial.

CLARE: I think that what David and others have said in the past is that this is happening already, the real issue here is about entrenching this, mandating this data being retained in the future.

LIPSON: What about sharing it with other countries? Should Australians be comfortable with that?

CLARE: I think I’ve made the point in the past David that intelligence is only useful if you share it with other countries. We live in a world where citizens move from one country to another, and an important part of Australia’s national security is exchanging information with trusted countries, the five eyes countries. Australia, the United States, Canada, England and New Zealand already do that, and it’s an important part of keeping Australians safe. Making sure that we’ve got access to intelligence and information that not just we collect, but other countries collect as well.

LIPSON: Just on the collection of this data as well, we have probably still got to have a closer look at the legislation the wording of it in detail, but the Prime Minister this morning said that we would be, or the internet providers would be collecting the sites that you click on. Does that mean that that would have access to your browsing history and therefore a pretty clear picture of what you have been doing online?

CLARE: Good question David, we need to get an answer to that. David Irvine has previously said in Senate committees that that wouldn’t be the case. We need to look at the detail of the legislation and understand what implications this will have for people’s privacy. We also need to get some information on who will pay for this because if internet companies have to hold and retain extra data that creates extra cost and potentially extra cost on your internet bills. Yesterday the Attorney General refused to say who would pay for this, we need an answer to that question as well.

LIPSON: Because Bill Shorten also yesterday said that Labor would not support what he called an internet tax. What exactly does Labor mean by that?

CLARE: At a Senate committee hearing, I think it was last week, iiNet made the point that retaining this data could add up to $5 or $10 per month to people’s internet bills. So a key question here that’s been asked, when regimes are being put into place in other countries is, if companies are required to hold this additional data that’s not required for commercial purposes, then who pays for it? Is it the government or is it the internet companies who may pass that cost on, effectively as a tax to their customers.

LIPSON: Okay well I want to look at the Government’s course of action that’s changed of course, if you like on its plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act, Section 18C of that Act. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that that had been off the table, if you like. What does Labor make of this? There was a concerted push, not just by Labor but some within the Coalition as well, to ensure that this didn’t go ahead.

CLARE: Well it’s a great victory for people power, the rallies that we held right across Australia brought thousands of people together to say that we don’t think this is the right thing to do and it shouldn’t be legal to offend or insult or humiliate someone based on the colour of their skin. So it’s a great result for the people that came together right across the country to tell Tony Abbott and George Brandis that they were wrong.

Its humiliating for George Brandis. I must say that he must be considered the worst Minister in this Government. He is a bit like Mr Magoo, bumping into everything he sees, he buggered up 18C, he said offensive things about East Jerusalem not being occupied, and the risk is that he might make mistakes here in this area of data retention or piracy. Law reform as well.

On Tony Abbott, I think this goes to judgement. He supported George Brandis, he thought this was a good idea, and as Ed Husic said this morning, he is only backing down on this, not because he doesn’t think that his ideas were wrong, but because he knows they’re unpopular. And David I’d make one more point –

LIPSON: Doesn’t that show that the Prime Minister is listening to the community and those within his party?

CLARE: It goes to judgement David, because he still thinks that its right to be able to offend or insult somebody based on the colour of their skin, and I think that that’s a very worrying thing for a Prime Minister hold that view. But I’d make one more point David and this is one backflip or one back down, and don’t be surprised if between now and when parliament returns in the next two and a half weeks, that we see another backflip on the $7 doctor tax or another backflip on the cuts to pensions, or another backflip on the doubling of university degrees. Christopher Pyne’s at the Press Club this afternoon and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see backflips on higher education reform as well.

LIPSON: Just before I let you go, just a question without notice, Mike Carlton has now resigned as a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, after some fairly abusive comments and tweets and the like. As Shadow Communications Minister, what do you make of this furore that is dominating coverage on the front of the Australian Newspaper for example today?

CLARE: Well that’s a matter between the Sydney Morning Herald and Mr Carlton. I think the Sydney Morning Herald has said that it’s important that the newspaper and its journalists are polite to its readership and I think that’s the important principle that all media companies and journalists should observe.

LIPSON: Jason Clare, Shadow Communications Minister, thanks for your time today.

CLARE: Thank you, thanks Dave.