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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2713


Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (10:06): I rise to continue my contribution on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014. Last night in my contribution I was speaking about some of the incidents of terrorism that we have seen in recent months and also the increasing concerns about the rise of lone-wolf terrorism, which makes the uncovering of terrorist plots even more difficult. Terrorism expert Dr Clarke Jones from the Australian National University said in an ABC News story on 20 January 2015:

This year is going to be a year of terrorism in the sense that I think we are going to see more small scale attacks.

There is no doubt that these are very troubling times.

The government does not propose or suggest that metadata will always stop a terrorism attack. I want to make the point—and this was actually made to me on Twitter last night, when I made my first contribution—that the use of metadata in relation to acts of terrorism is vital during an incident, such as the Sydney siege, for investigators and is of course vital for security and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a terrorist incident. This bill is the vital next step in giving our agencies the tools they need to keep us safe. For that reason, and as I have said, I am very pleased that Labor is supporting this bill.

I certainly want to note again the excellent work of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security—and we have just heard from the member for Wannon in relation another matter. The committee has done an excellent job in addressing some of the issues with the original bill. The committee made 39 recommendations, which were of course accepted by the Attorney-General, and we now have those amendments in the bill before us today.

I did reflect on the member for Perth's contribution last night. I note an ABC report on radio this morning, 'Labor MP angry at how metadata was handled', and it was disappointing that the ABC perhaps did not give the same prominence to the fact that this bill is being comprehensively supported by both sides of the House—by the government and by the opposition. I have to say that I think it is a very partisan report. My comments in reply were not reported and yet there were some fairly derogatory comments in relation to the Prime Minister made by the member for Perth that were reported. The fact is that the ABC has not properly reported the member for Perth's speech and has not properly reported the fact that this bill has been comprehensively supported by both sides of the House.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin has advised the government that between July and September 2014 metadata was used in 92 per cent of counter-terrorism investigations, in 100 per cent of cybercrime investigations, in 87 per cent of child protection investigations and in 79 per cent of serious crime investigations. I think the member for Gellibrand in his contribution last night made the point well that this metadata is needed not just for terrorism and terrorism incidents but also for a range of crimes being investigated by law enforcement agencies. Internet service providers are keeping fewer records and it is vital that our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to do their job. That is why this bill, which requires the ISPs to maintain this data for some two years, is so important.

David Irvine, former Director-General of ASIO, has said that, unless metadata practices are changed, law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts will be severely hampered—and we must not let that happen. As I mentioned, under this bill, the industry will be required to keep a limited range of metadata for two years. It is important to reiterate that the government is not asking telecommunications companies to retain the content of communications—content such as emails, private social media posts, texts or telephone conversations or information showing a person's web browsing history. Metadata is information about a communication, not the content or substance of a communication. So we are talking about things like IP addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

I also want to make the point that protecting the security of personal information is a key priority of this government. As a Liberal, I believe in a government that minimises interference in people's lives. That is why this bill has a range of important safeguards. The bill before us today strikes the right balance between protecting the privacy of the community and giving our security and intelligence agencies the help they need to keep us all safe, to maintain a safe and secure Australia. The bill limits access to just the agencies which have a clear need for such access and have well-developed internal systems for protecting privacy, such as law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Data must be reasonably necessary for the purposes of investigating criminal offences and other permitted purposes. The bill also requires the Attorney-General to report annually on the operation of the scheme. We are also introducing a comprehensive oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for any Commonwealth, state or territory law enforcement agencies accessing this retained data. The government is also progressing the telecommunications sector security reforms that seek to ensure the ongoing security and integrity of Australia's telecommunications infrastructure.

I also want to make the particular point that there was an issue in relation to journalists' sources. As a former journalist myself, I do appreciate and understand how important it is to protect journalists' sources as best we can and to support investigative journalism, the free press and a health democracy. After some consideration in relation to this matter, the Attorney-General has made it clear that the data retention bill does not target journalists or their sources. To expedite the passage of the bill, the government has proposed an amendment to require agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access a journalist's metadata for the purposes of identifying the journalist's source. I welcome this move, which provides a greater level of comfort that journalists' sources will be protected. It is an amendment that has been accepted by those opposite, and I am pleased to see that the issue has been resolved.

We are taking a range of measures to combat terrorism, including a $630 million counterterrorism package announced by the Prime Minister in August 2014. That package includes expenditure of $13.4 million to strengthen community engagement programs; $6.2 million to establish a new Australian Federal Police community diversion and monitoring team; $32.7 million for a multiagency national disruption group to investigate, prosecute and disrupt foreign fighters and their supporters; and $11.8 million for the Australian Federal Police, to bolster its ability to respond to the threat of foreign fighters at home and abroad.

As I have outlined, terrorism, very sadly, poses a significant risk to the community. In this country the government is working very hard to do everything we can to keep Australians safe and secure. This bill is an important part of that effort, and I commend the bill to the House.