Introducing data retention 'an urgent priority', Brandis argues

Legislation needed to protect 'free and democratic West', attorney-general argues

Attorney-General George Brandis has used an op-ed in The Australian newspaper to argue for the speedy introduction of a mandatory data retention regime.

Last year's siege in Martin Place and the killing of staff of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris show that the "free and democratic West" faces a "profound threat that is likely to be with us for a long time", Brandis wrote in the article.

In 2014 the government introduced three pieces of national security legislation: National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No 1), the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act and the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amend-ment Act (No 1)

"The remaining measure, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, provides for mandatory retention of metadata (the details, but not the content, of telecommunications)," Brandis wrote.

"Access to metadata is vital to investigate terrorism and organised crime. The bill does not propose any additional powers for national ¬security agencies. It requires telecommunications companies to retain information they have routinely kept but which they might not keep in future.

"Discussions are being undertaken between the government and industry to deal with the definition of the dataset and cost. Former ASIO director-general David Irvine has described the capacity of agencies to access metadata as 'absolutely crucial' in identifying terrorist networks and protecting the public."

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 is currently the subject of parliamentary scrutiny, in the form of an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The proposed regime has drawn broad support from law enforcement and intelligence agencies but met a lukewarm or hostile reception from sections of the telecommunications industry and civil liberty advocates.

The current text of the bill has also been criticised by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights for not spelling out in detail what metadata telcos would be forced to retain.

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Tags national securitycivil libertiesGeorge Brandisdata retentionprivacydata retention plan

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