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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2758


Mr IRONS (Swan) (13:25): I too rise to join with my colleagues in speaking on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014, which has been the focus of much debate and confusion within the community and in the media since it was introduced in this place on 30 October 2014. I highlight that perhaps the latter confusion is the cause of the former and has largely surrounded concerns that Australians' privacy would be breached and that our law enforcement agencies—and by extension the government—will have unprecedented access to our personal information, if this bill is passed in this place. It is the 'Big Brother is watching you' concept and it is raising concerns for many people. I know there are some in my electorate who have been concerned about the privacy of their data.

With this confusion in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify and highlight three key things: (1) the bill will in no way expand the type of metadata that law enforcement agencies can access; (2) it will not allow law enforcement agencies to tap a person's phone or read their personal emails without a warrant; and (3) the bill expressly precludes a person's web browsing history from being accessed. To make this clearer: law enforcement agencies will not be able to access any more information about me, the member for Swan; the member for Griffith, who has just spoken; the member for Canberra; the member for Aston—I noticed the member for Griffith also mentioned them in her speech—or any other member of the Australian public, if this bill is passed, than they can already access today.

I believe greater clarity has now been given to the government's intent in introducing this legislation following last Friday's release of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's response to the provisions outlined in this bill. The committee made 39 recommendations with the last being for the bill to pass through this and the other place, and I thank all the committee members for their invaluable contribution.

I take this time to also highlight that this report has bipartisan support from the Labor government, and therefore thank the committee's chair, Dan Tehan, the member for Wannon, and its deputy chair, Anthony Byrne, the member for Holt. I must admit that the member for Holt has been a driving force within the Labor Party for this type of legislation, and his advocacy on all matters related to border security and security have been helpful and worth recognising. I thank them for their dedication to ensuring an effective scrutiny processes is also undertaken, and I thank the opposition leader for recognising the true intent and importance of this legislation's passage.

As I previously highlighted, there have been a number of concerns raised about the bill's impact on everyday Australians' privacy. The key thing that all members in this place should note is that the bill before the House will in no way change the scope of the metadata that can be accessed. Instead it is about ensuring this important data, which is helping our law enforcement agencies to investigate a range of crimes every minute of every day, is retained by the telecommunications service providers for a mandatory minimum period of two years.

Before I proceed, I think it is important to first explain the concept of metadata, so there is further clarity about what this word means in terms of information. Metadata is actually being collected about each and every one of us by service providers and, more importantly, it is what data can then be accessed by our law enforcement agencies.

Metadata is simply the information that identifies that a communication exists; it is not the content of that communication. One form of communication that we all use regularly in the digital world is email, so I will use that as an example—I see the member for Longman and I know he uses email and many forms of communication. When we say that the metadata of an email is retained, this means that the sender, recipient, time, date and location of where the email was sent from is retained by a telecommunications service provider, and that this information is able to be accessed by law enforcement agencies. The contents of that email or its substance will not be able to be accessed, though. This is the same for a phone call. An agency could use metadata to show that one individual called another at a particular time on a particular date, but what was said during that conversation would not be known. The importance of our law enforcement agencies being able to access this information cannot be undervalued, but the issue they are currently faced with is that telecommunications service providers across Australia are progressively reducing the amount of time they retain—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour, and the honourable member will have leave to continue his remarks at that time.