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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1803

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (17:40): On Friday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released its Advisory report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014, represented here in this chamber by its thorough and serious deputy chair. This metadata legislation has been a matter of controversy since the previous member for Gellibrand was the Attorney-General, as it was in the previous parliament when I had the honour of participating in the intelligence committee before I became a parliamentary secretary. The committee reviewed this bill after the Minister for Telecommunications introduced its latest iteration in October last year.

The bill is the third tranche of national security legislation by the current government. I have to say this: after the events in Sydney at the Lindt cafe, was it not wise of this parliament to make sure that all of us acted together to see that there are not further incidents like that and that we support the police and the intelligence services to see that the horrors that have been visited on the Middle East and Europe are not further brought to this country? It is all very well to say that these events did happen at the Lindt cafe, but just think of all of the Australian lives that have been saved by the people who are employed by the Australian people to prevent these kinds of things. They are doing a fine job.

The Committee has recommended that parliament pass this bill, provided its 37 recommendations are accepted. They include that the legislation has better definitions and descriptions of what data is to be retained, a clarification of what data is not to be retained, a clarification as to which government agencies can be restricted from accessing this data. Frankly, there were some silly groups who had access to this kind of data before, including some local councils. The recommendations also include providing the ombudsman with additional funds to strengthen oversight, giving the Intelligence and Security Committee oversight of the operational use of this legislation, and, importantly, a sunset clause. There are more recommendations that ASIC and the ACCC are authorised to access telecommunications data to assist the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime, that telecommunications data be required to provide customers access to their own metadata that is being stored, that customers be notified if the security of their data is breached—a provision I will come back to in a minute—that stored data be encrypted, and that metadata may not be accessed in civil proceedings. Labor has maintained a sensible, bipartisan approach to national security, and I pay tribute in particular to the members for Isaacs and Holt who have led us in this debate. They have led us because they know about these issues. I wish all members of this parliament would engage with these issues that affect the safety of the Australian people with the same seriousness as them.

Diversity of modern communication technology has vastly complicated the work of monitoring what the bad guys are up to. Its complexity has enabled them to become radicalised without necessarily even going to places in the Middle East for training or in some of the other ways of involving people that have happened in other countries. Self-generated people can be in touch with their enablers around the corner or on the other side of the world. Again, as an example of the non-partisan support for this, the opposition commends the foreign minister for withholding what I think are now 100 passports of people who would go over there and participate in some of these vile acts of barbarism against minorities, against cultural objects and against people who live in that region.

In addition to the importance of Labor's bipartisan approach, the intelligence and security committee advisory report shows that there has been a balance achieved between the security of Australians and the privacy and individual rights that characterise an open democracy like Australia. This is where I would like to turn to the contrast with people like Edward Snowden.

Honourable members will recall that he is a former US intelligence official who stole and leaked thousands of documents in the name of an open society and democracy. He lives now in a secret location in Russia, where, just yesterday, the opposition leader was gunned down in the streets near the Kremlin. I note that Labor's decision to support or not to support metadata legislation will not be determined until Mr Turnbull provides the amended legislation. But should Labor support this legislation, I am sure the Greens and the Snowden fan club will crawl out of the woodwork to denounce us and the legislation. They will not cause any fear in me or in the members for Holt and Isaacs or, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition. They will say this legislation breaches privacy of Australian citizens despite the data breach proposals of Labor.

I drove the member for Isaacs and the member for Holt crazy with this idea that was introduced in other countries where individuals can, having proof that people breach their data, take individual action. This is a serious way of addressing issues of privacy. If you claim that that is your main concern, you would be supporting this legislation. The Snowden adulators have him as a person who bravely leaks for the rights of the individual but they do not support data breach legislation. And they say nothing about any practical measures that could be used to preserve the privacy of the Australian people.

The Christian Science Monitor's Middle East editor, Mr Murphy, drew my attention to the fact that Snowden and his various champions support the release of material about how the Five Eyes—the Western intelligence services—intercepted telecommunications in northern Iraq prior to Daesh conquering that area. Snowden's release of this data was completely inimical to the safety of Western societies and civilians and, of course, it was to the great detriment of the people who live in that area. I question the motivation of someone who would leak this information on the interception capabilities of telecommunications of al-Qaeda in the Mosul and western and northern Iraq regions. This bastardry—and I use that word advisedly—has nothing to do with privacy. This simply undermines the ability of the West to assist Iraq in northern Iraq to prevent al-Qaeda or IS's spread.

It is not coincidental that some months after Snowden's revelations of how the West intercepts what they are doing, that al-Qaeda and IS encrypted all of their telephone traffic in a way that made what they were doing invisible. And that is the big answer to the mystery of what happened in northern Iraq. How did IS roll into northern Iraq and Mosul without Western secret services being able to pick this up? What on earth does disclosing Western interception methodology have to do with the privacy concerns of Western publics in Melbourne, Manhattan or Manchester? Snowden's leaks contributed to Daesh's victory in northern and western Iraq, the enslavement of the Yazidis, the mass rape of women, the destruction of the Tomb of Jonah and all of the antiquities in the museum in Mosul, as well as the horrible persecution of Christians and people who live in that area. What a dubious achievement! Well done, Mr Snowdon, and his apologists!

I want to contrast that with the measured and balanced way that the members for Holt and Isaacs have approached this. They have cited Professor George Williams of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, having accepted the need for metadata retention. They have quoted Professor Gillian Triggs, of the Human Rights Commission, who acknowledges there is a need for data retention. The member for Holt said in his speech this morning:

We cannot have a discussion about national security laws without acknowledging the growing threat that our country faces from the terrorist menace. What needs to be contemplated by those that have some resistance to this metadata regime is that they can be reassured that the committee looked very extensively at the case for and against. You can rest assured that some of the safeguards that have been put into this report—that hopefully will be enshrined in legislation—are amongst the strongest safeguards in the Western world for any data retention regime. You can be reassured that we will continue to monitor the implementation of this data retention regime.

Snowden and those who support him have little or no appreciation of the threat that Australian and Western civilians face. They have nothing compared to the carefully balanced efforts that Labor, together with the government, have made to protect the citizens of this country. The Greens are all about protest and rarely constructive. Labor, by contrast, will insist on legislation with sunset causes, parliamentary oversight, data breach provisions and—should Mr Turnbull provide sensible legislation that will adequately protect Australian's interests and privacy—Labor, I am sure, will pass it.