Former chair of Australia's Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (JCIS), Labor MP Anthony Byrne, has urged the nation's federal government to implement data retention legislation to prevent what he calls “imminent” terrorist attacks.
In a speech to parliament on Monday July 14, Byrne said the government should bring all of the recommendations made in a 2013 JCIS (JCIS) report before parliament for debate, as soon as possible.
Referring specifically to data retention, he said “Inevitably and in the not-too-distant future we will have an event on Australian soil”, and that “I don't want to see data retention debated … after an event has occurred”.
Byrne told parliament an attack “of the magnitude of the Bali event” is inevitable and would be prevented by data retention laws.
The government's failure to bring the report's 43 recommendations to parliament means that it isn't giving security agencies all of the powers they have been asking for, he said. Regarding critics of data retention laws, Byrne said that “in some sections of the media and some sections of the commentariat” there was discussion of liberty, “but there's not a discussion about the threat that is posed to Australian citizens”.
A variety of bodies, from police to intelligence agencies, has long been lobbying for Australian carriers and ISPs to be required to retain telecommunications metadata for periods ranging upwards from two years. The industry has resisted such calls on the basis of cost and the security of such data.
The committee report, here, has been left on the “too controversial” list by both the previous and current government, although there have been reports that the Attorney-General George Brandis is preparing legislation based on Chapter 4 of the report.
Among other things, that chapter deals with how computers are defined in national security legislation, how agencies are allowed to access target computers, the use of third-party computers or networks in accessing targeted machines, and offers a model under which agencies could launch attacks against target computers and networks.
The opposition has clearly decided that data retention gives it a lever to use against the government. Both Byrne and, in this Facebook post ALP member Michael Danby, accuse the government of avoiding the committee's report at the behest of right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.
The full video of Byrne's speech is below. ®