Industry body concerned over rushed data retention legislation

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association warns against rushing data retention legislation through parliament

The introduction of a data retention scheme should not be rushed, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has said.

A statement from AMTA said that the industry organisation is concerned "that any attempt to rush legislation to introduce mandatory data retention could be at the expense of proper scrutiny of the federal government's proposed scheme."

At a press conference yesterday Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he wanted the legislation to implement the scheme passed "as quickly as is humanly possible".

The data retention bill is currently the subject of an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

The PJCIS is due to report on the data retention bill at the end of February.

"As soon as that report comes down the Government wants the Parliament to deal with it, because as we know, from the bitter experience of the Martin Place siege, as we know from the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris, there are a whole range of people — sadly, people in our country — who want to do us harm and it's absolutely vital that we maintain the capacity to trace, to detect, to protect, the Australian public against all kinds of crime," Abbott said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten yesterday said that "Labor has got a fantastic record of working in the national interest on national security". However, Shorten added that "rush and haste will not help improve Australia's security".

"What Australians expect of their parliamentarians is that on the one hand we prioritise national security and the safety of Australia, and balance it with ensuring that in the process of making Australia safe, we still retain the individual liberties which make Australia such a fantastic place to live," the opposition leader said.

In a statement AMTA CEO Chris Althaus said that implementing a data retention regime would involve a significant cost burden for the telecommunications industry.

Read more: How will data retention laws cope with the Internet of Things?

Abbott said yesterday that the cost of the scheme is "something that we will be continuing to work with the sector on".

The government has indicated it will contribute to the cost of establishing the scheme. However, how much the scheme will cost overall and was the government's contribution will be are still unknown.

The government has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to assess the cost of the scheme. However, the Attorney-General's Department indicated at the most recent hearing of the PJCIS that PwC has not completed its work.

Department representatives also indicated there is no guarantee that the PJCIS will have access to PwC's findings.

"[E]ven if the costs are in the order of a couple of hundred million, you've got to remember that this is a $40 billion plus sector," Abbott said at the press conference.

"So, the costs involved are comparatively modest and, obviously, we, the government, are prepared to work with the sector to ensure that we bear our fair share of the costs as well."

"It is unclear to us what the level of contribution the government will make towards the capital expense of establishing the proposed data retention regime," Althaus said

"Indications from government to date imply that it will not amount to full reimbursement, but the extent of the reimbursement remains unclear."

AMTA is also concerned that Australian businesses will be disadvantaged by the compliance burden of data retention, in comparison to overseas cloud providers and providers of 'over the top' services, which won't be subject to the scheme.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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