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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1095

National Security


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (14:22): My question is to the Minister for Justice. Will the minister inform the House of the importance of metadata to the detection and disruption of terrorist networks?


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (14:23): I thank the member for Hughes for that important question. He, I think, like most members of this House, would be fully aware that the security situation in Australia has deteriorated significantly in the past 12 months in response to international events, in particular in the Middle East.

In the past six months alone in Australia we have had 20 people arrested and charged as a result of six counterterrorism operations. That is fully one-third of all terrorism related arrests that have been made in Australia since 2001 in the last six months alone.

We need to support our law enforcement and security agencies in the difficult work that they need to do to keep the Australian community safe. In almost all of their counterterrorism investigations they utilise metadata—92 per cent of all security related investigations utilise metadata. And for the first time in our history we have had the Director-General of ASIO raise the national terrorism alert to high, which means that an attack is likely. Unfortunately, that is going to continue to be the case for some time. And it is incumbent upon this parliament to provide our agencies with the tools they need to do the job of keeping us safe.

Now, it is not just in the realm of national security where metadata is used by our law enforcement agencies. Every serious criminal investigation utilises metadata, whether that be terrorism related, gang related, a murder, a rape or a kidnapping; the police require access to metadata to do their job. And I think it is not well understood how successful our agencies actually have been in keeping the Australian people safe since 2001. We had a stark reminder in November 2005, when police disrupted a mass casualty attack which was planned on the MCG on grand final day. They could only have conducted the disruption of what was going to be a very serious attack because they could utilise metadata. Indeed, because they could access that metadata they intercepted a covert phone network between the people who wanted to perpetrate this crime. They were using it to conceal their activities—activities that involved them contacting one another and contacting people to get the ammunition and chemicals they needed to carry out this attack.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr KEENAN: Apparently members on the other side think that is rather amusing—I think that is very sad. This data is collected routinely and it will continue to be collected routinely regardless of whether this legislation passes the parliament. All we are asking for is certainty for our law enforcement and intelligence community so that we give them the tools that they need—the modern tools they need—to conduct their investigations. These people keep us safe and it is incumbent upon this parliament to make sure that they can continue to do their job.