Attorney-General department refuses to name third agency using s313

Scott Ludlam said it was “extraordinary” that it is not known who could be issuing section 313 notices to block websites

The Attorney-General's department has refused to reveal a third agency using section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to block websites.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) revealed during Senate Estimates on Thursday that there are three agencies using section 313. The agencies include the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the AFP.

However, the DBCDE refused to reveal who the third agency is, only stating it was an agency under the Attorney-General’s division.

The Attorney'General's department also refused to identify the agency when questioned by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, with the A-G's department stating, “We don’t comment on national security matters.”

Ludlam: So it’s a national security agency?

A-G's: We don’t comment on those matters.

Ludlam: So it’s a national security agency?

A-G's: We don’t comment on those matters.

Ludlam: You are commenting. You just told me it’s a national security matter.

Senator Joe Ludwig: No, he said he wasn’t commenting on it.

Ludlam: I didn’t ask whether it was a national security [matter]. Somebody within the Attorney-General’s portfolio, which is significantly broader than national security, is using section 313 notices to knock content off the Web.

A-G's: It is a national security matter – we’re not commenting on it.

Ludlam said it was “extraordinary” that it is not known who could be issuing section 313 notices to block websites.

“It’s at their discretion to put up a press release which somebody may stumble across or not,” he said.

“This is one of those conversations where you come out of it much more alarmed than when you went in,” he later said.

“[When] you set out to try and create alarm, you can convince yourself of anything,” Senator Stephen Conroy responded.

The use of section 313 has come under spotlight after it was revealed ASIC blocked 1200 innocent websites using section 313 requests.

Conroy recently told Computerworld Australia he had asked his department to look into improving transparency around the use of section 313 following the incident.

“I’ll agree with the argument that there should be a more consolidated capacity to know who’s doing what – I think that’s a very fair and reasonable argument that’s made,” Conroy said during Senate Estimates.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags Australian Federal Police (AFP)Stephen ConroyDepartment of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE)section 313telecommunications actScott Ludlam

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