Mandatory data retention laws an attack on Australians

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Greens Senator Scott Ludlum has called the Government’s mandatory data retention legislation an outrageous attack on Australian’ right to privacy’, which will be fought.

THE GOVERNMENT’S MANDATORY DATA RETENTION LEGISLATION is an outrageous attack on Australians’ fundamental right to privacy and does not represent a proportionate response to the needs of law enforcement authorities.

The bill contains no description of the metadata it is seeking to access and no details about the cost of this unwelcome new surveillance tax.

Since the idea was first floated in 2009, mandatory data retention has been dissected and rejected by almost every major stakeholder group affected by the idea, including the telecommunications industry, civil liberties groups, media organisations, journalists, political parties and thinktanks across the political spectrum.

Data retention will impose a surveillance tax on the entire Australian population, and turn the telecommunications industry into unwilling appendages to enforcement agencies, tracking and storing material on every device held by every man, woman and child in Australia.

Data retention was rolled back by the European Court of Justice because it was found to violate human rights and because it did not affect authorities’ ability to do their job.

Data retention will also make a mockery of the ability of journalists to protect their sources. When the Government has access to a log of every phone call made in Australia and every email sent, the practice of whistleblowing will cease to exist.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull got it right in 2012 when he said he had “very grave misgivings” about data retention, because it was “heading in precisely the wrong direction” and would create a “chilling effect on free speech” as well as invade privacy.

Turnbull said at the time:

“The German Federal Constitutional Court has recently struck down a similar data retention law noting that “metadata” may be used to draw conclusions about not simply the content of the messages, but the social and political affiliations, personal preferences, inclinations and weaknesses of the individual concerned.”

Turnbull also noted in 2012 that the criminals of greatest concern to Australia would be able to use numerous means to anonymise their communications to evade their data being retained, meaning the scheme would be easy to evade.

The Greens and a wide range of other groups across the political spectrum will step up the fight against data retention to ensure it is blocked in the Senate.

Today, the Greens call on the Labor Party to declare they will vote against Mandatory Data Retention, and not wait until after it has passed to express their regrets and concerns.

This piece was originally published on scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au.

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