Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 18 February 2015




SUBJECT/S: Data retention; National security

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me now the Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare. Mr Clare thanks for your time.


GILBERT: On the metadata legislation, Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister saying that he’s urging him to consider some of the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Committee on intelligence matters. In that letter he also suggested that he’s concerned that some of the areas in relation to the counter-terrorism legislation have been politicised in recent media briefings, can you elaborate for us in exactly what Bill Shorten is talking about there?

CLARE: Kieran I’m on that committee, I’m on the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security and we report at the end of next week.

The general points I would make is this, first metadata is very important for the work that law enforcement and our national security agencies do, they use it every day. A terrific example of how they use it is in the case of a person being killed, police turn up to the crime scene, there are no witnesses, they will go back and look at the phone data or the internet data to find out who was the last person that that person was speaking to or communicating with. It’s important as part of their investigations. But what all of the evidence is starting to show the Committee is that there are a number of concerns with the legislation that will need to be addressed.

One that Bill Shorten has identified is that the definition of metadata, what constitutes the metadata that telcos will have to hold, should be in the legislation and not left to regulation. Telstra, Optus, Vodafone all the telcos have made this point.

The second is that we need to know how much this will cost. The Committee has been briefed on this but the general public hasn’t yet and we think that it’s very important that the Parliament, Members of Parliament, know how much this will cost before they are asked to vote on this legislation next month.

Finally there’s the issue of the potential impact that the legislation could have on the press and access to their sources. News Limited, Fairfax, AAP and a number of other media organisations have said they are concerned about this and they have asked for changes to the bill. These are the sorts of things the Committee is looking at right now.

GILBERT: Largely in principle, as you made clear at the start of your answer there, my advice is from those close to the intelligence agencies, that they just want to status quo to remain basically. That with changing telco billing practices that they don’t keep their records for as long as they once did and they just want the status quo kept. So why has it become such a big deal?

CLARE: Kieran that’s not exactly right. The Prime Minister, just a few moments ago, talked about going dark or telco agencies not holding things as long as they once did. That’s the case in some circumstances, but what we heard from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone is that they are intending to keep the data that they are currently keeping.

The bigger issue here that this legislation is intended to address is to make sure that all telcos keep data in a standard form for a set period of time and what’s being proposed here is two years. That will mean that some telcos will continue to hold data for longer than that period of time but those that hold it for a shorter period of time will now hold it for two years.

GILBERT: We’ve only got about a minute left but quickly on this issue that Bill Shorten says he’s disappointed that recent media briefing has sought to politicise the development of anti-terrorism legislation, what’s he referring to there, because it seems up until this point there has been bi-partisanship, that doesn’t look as strong as it has done in recent months.

CLARE: This is too important for politics. I think that’s the general point that Bill is making here. Labor has worked cooperatively with the Government on the previous two tranches of national security legislation and we are working well in the Committee process at the moment. As I said that committee will report at the end of next week but it’s important that the significant issues that have been raised in those hearings that the Committee’s held are addressed by the Committee in its report next week.

GILBERT: Jason Clare appreciate your time. Thank you.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.