Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed that the government is still mulling introducing mandatory data retention for telcos, but it will not be included in the first tranche of national security-related legislation being introduced in parliament today.
Data retention is "under active consideration by the government," Brandis told a press conference this afternoon.
"I might point out to you that as recently as yesterday the House of Commons [in the UK] passed a new data retention statute," the attorney-general said.
"This is very much the way Western nations are going. It's been the case in Europe under the European Data Retention Directive for some little while now."
In April the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) struck down the directive, ruling that it interfered with fundamental privacy rights.
Data retention is "not a matter that the Australian government has yet decided to do but it is true that it is under active consideration," Brandis said.
Director-General of Security David Irvine said that data retention was "absolutely crucial" for intelligence agencies such as ASIO.
"As there is increasing sophistication in communications, almost every ASIO investigation and a very large number of law enforcement investigations depend at least in the first instance on access to retained data," Irvine said.
"Data that's telecommunications data , call data that's been retained by the telephone companies . We don't collect it and retain it ourselves."
The attorney-general revealed that the government would not go ahead with abolition of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. The abolition of the watchdog had been the subject of concern by civil liberties activists.
Brandis announced in June that the government would seek to boost the powers available to intelligence agencies, based on a report issued last year by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Those recommendations include updating the ASIO Act to modernise certain definitions and allow access to third party computer systems to retrieve information.
The next tranche of national security legislation will be introduced in the spring settings of parliament, Brandis said.
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