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Government must abandon data retention

The Federal Government must unequivocally reject mandatory telecommunications data retention in the wake of the release of the National Security Inquiry report, the Australian Greens said today.

Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said the Report reinforced the overwhelming public opposition to the proposal to collect and store the telephone and email data of all Australians for two years.

"98.9 per cent of public submissions to the National Security Inquiry were opposed to mandatory data retention. This Report refused to endorse data retention and condemned Government's secretive approach. Today the Government must respect the will of the vast majority of Australians and abandon a scheme that would treat all 22 million of us as suspects.

"The Report vindicates the Greens' long standing call for the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act to be reformed, but does not tackle the key problem - the interception of communications without a warrant. In 2011-2012 government agencies, not including ASIO, made 293,501 requests to access communications data - without a warrant. The Greens' ‘Get A Warrant' Bill currently before the Senate fixes this problem, but the Joint Committee's report ignores it.

"Also troubling, the report recommends making the refusal to assist in decryption of communications a criminal offence. This has serious ramifications for protecting whistleblowers, journalists' sources, and general privacy - and should be rejected outright by the Government.

"The report, to its credit, does acknowledge the serious problem of surveillance overreach: recognising the need to reduce the number of government agencies that can access our data and to ensure close oversight by Parliament, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and the Ombudsman.

"However, the report is also notable for what it doesn't discuss: Not one word on data sharing with overseas national security agencies including the United States' NSA. The PRISM scandal erupted after the committee had concluded taking evidence, and the report ignores the possibility of large-scale warrantless surveillance over Australian citizens by foreign governments. The bulk of the report focusses on the minutiae of surveillance regulations in Australia which may have been rendered completely redundant by transfers of data from the US.

"Disturbingly, twenty-one of the recommendations point towards a further extension of the ever-growing power of ASIO - including the power to access a third party computer in order to hack the computer of ASIO's target. This drags law-abiding citizens into the net of ASIO's surveillance.

"The Government must abandon data retention, and reveal the whole truth on the ‘deluge' of information it is receiving from foreign intelligence agencies including the NSA."

The Report

Senator Ludlam's submission to the Inquiry:


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