August 12, 2014
Liberal MP Alex Hawke and Tony Abbott.
Liberal MP Alex Hawke has potential concerns about government plans to retain metadata as announced by Tony Abbott.
Several Coalition MPs have spoken out about the federal government’s plans to force internet service providers to store Australians’ internet data for two years, warning there is a potential for the changes to breach the rights of individuals to privacy.
Liberal MP Alex Hawke has told Fairfax Media he has serious privacy concerns about the government’s mandatory data retention plan, which would require Internet Service Providers to save two years of customers’ metadata.
And fellow Liberal MP Craig Kelly also expressed concerns about the data retention plan, warning the “devil is in the detail” and highlighting concerns about what data will be kept.
“My position is that there may be good reasons to have a mandatory data retention regime, but this requires a thorough and detailed assessment, including addressing urgent matters like access regimes and the deletion of material – all of the questions people have about privacy and the rights to their own data,” he said.
“We need a system where people can feel confident the government is not accessing people’s information without oversight, with strict conditions and without transparency for the user.”
Mr Hawke compared the proposal to the mandatory internet filter proposed by the former Labor government and the unpopular Australia Card proposed by Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.
Mr Hawke praised Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was excluded from National Security Committee discussions of the proposal but then sent out to explain it after both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis struggled to clarify what data would be held.
“I’m comfortable when Malcolm Turnbull says what it [the policy] is about; when there have been other cases made you get more concerned,” he said.
“I feel much more comfort with the Communications Minister’s views. He is on the right path. We need to continue the conversation to ensure there is a strict regime to protect people’s privacy.”
Asked specifically about whether a warrant should be required before law agencies were granted access to metadata, Mr Hawke said: “There could be a case for warrantless access, but that requires a good definition.”
Mr Kelly said that on balance, he would support the government’s plan to beef up counter-terrorism laws, of which the metadata proposal is one element. But he cautioned that the right to privacy of individuals had to be protected.
“The devil is in the detail. Our natural inclination is to protect from further government intrusion in the affairs of people,” he said.
“The finer points of detail need to be thrashed out – that has to be done with calm heads.”
The comments come after a difficult week in which the government’s plan to introduce a suite of anti-terrorism laws, including $630 million in new funding for agencies, were sidetracked by the debate over the metadata proposal.
Metadata includes the phone number from which a call is made, the number to which it is made, the identity of the owners of those numbers, the location of the caller and the recipient and the time and duration of a call.
It can also include the originating internet protocol (IP) address of a person using a computer and the destination IP. After considerable confusion last week, Mr Turnbull clarified the proposal would capture an end user’s IP address but not the IP addresses people connected to, and nor would it record an individual’s web browsing history.
Other Liberals contacted by Fairfax Media, who asked not to be named, criticised Senator Brandis’ handling of the issue last week.
“No one knows what is going on,” one said. “It’s like it is being made up on the run by the Attorney-General’s office.”
Junior ministers Scott Ryan and Steve Ciobo both flagged concerns about data retention in a July party room meeting.
Mr Ciobo said last week before the plan was announced that “it’s not the right approach to have mass surveillance of the population”.
An Essential Media poll published on Tuesday found just 39 per cent of Australians approved of the federal government’s plan to force ISPs to retain phone and internet records, while 51 per cent opposed it.
Read more: www.smh.com.au