by Byron Connolly

Greens seek amendments to data retention bill

Mar 24, 2015 2 mins
Big Data Government

The Australian Greens on Tuesday announced proposed amendments to the data retention regime to address major privacy and security protections that it claims are being stripped away by the Abbott/Shorten surveillance unity ticket.

Labor joined with the Coalition last Thursday to pass the government’s amended data retention legislation in the lower house. The Senate today began its second reading debate on the bill before it was interrupted by question time.

During the debate in the Senate today, the Greens argued that authorities should need a warrant to access bulk metadata and the entire process should have proper independent oversight.

“The debate has shown quickly that the ALP is willing to fall into step with Tony Abbott, and without these amendments, any Australian who uses a phone or internet device will be caught,” said Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam.

“The onus is now on the ALP to help us fix this bill, not just wave it through the Senate.”

Under the proposed amendments, authorities would need to apply for a warrant in the majority of cases before metadata can be accessed, and would only be able to do so in relation to serious crimes. The role of the public interest advocate would also be widened to contest the breadth of these authorisations, Senator Ludlam said.

“Our amendments will ensure data is stored in Australia, and is held for three months, rather than two years, before being destroyed,” he said.

“Storing the data in Australia will reduce the risk of hacking and data breaches leading to mass exposure of personal information.”

The Greens also moved to provide better protections for Australia’s journalists by restoring the wider definitions of what constitutes journalism.

“Our amendments also create protocols to ensure professionals working in areas such as the legal or medical fields are protected in the event that our wider amendments,” Senator Ludlam said.

“To improve oversight, we will require the Commonwealth Ombudsman to examine the records of each agency which has access to metadata every six months, and will seek to remove the ability of the Attorney-General to randomly widen the scope of this scheme through regulation, without coming back to Parliament,” he said.

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