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BURIED: Oz gov won't reveal telcos' guess at data retention costs

PWC report won't be shared with committee, even in secret

Australian federal government data retention plans remain in disarray, with the parliamentary committee investigating the legislation being told that the government is not going to had over the costings it's received from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which asked telcos to provide them on Christmas Eve.

In what Australian Labor Party committee member Anthony Byrne described as a “spanner in the works”, Attorney General's Department first assistant Anna Harmer said the PwC consulting report is meant for the government, not for the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (JCIS) nor the Implementation Working Group (IWG – the body comprising government and industry representatives) would get to see it.

In a move criticised at the time, the Communications Alliance distributed the PwC questionnaire on Christmas Eve, and required responses by January 9.

The Register later learned that the document requested costings to store metadata for 12 months and 36 months, rather than the two years' retention period stipulated in the legislation.

Harmer told the JCIS the government intends to make a “reasonable contribution” to the capital costs industry incurs in complying with the data retention scheme, but would not discuss what that contribution might be.

Byrne described the department's inability – or unwillingness – to provide a costing for the scheme as “completely unacceptable”.

Liberal member and former AG Phillip Ruddock emphasised to the committee the urgency the government attached to the legislation, at one point saying he'd like to see it pass parliament within two weeks – which would have the laws passed before the committee completes its report.

The last hearings currently scheduled into the legislation take place today. ®

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