Data retention regime gets bipartisan backing (again)

Labor joins Coalition in rejecting Greens motion in Senate as one-year anniversary of legislation approaches

Coalition and Labor Senators yesterday combined to quash a Greens motion that called on the government to wind back the data retention scheme.

The motion came as the one-year anniversary of the data retention legislation receiving bipartisan support in the lower house nears.

The Senate motion moved by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam condemned “the expensive, intrusive and ultimately pointless” scheme.

The government is spending more than $150 million on the scheme, the motion noted, but it can be easily circumvented (through the use of over-the-top messaging services and overseas-based email services, for example).

It also noted the number of additional agencies seeking to be authorised for warrant-free access to data covered by the scheme.

Sixty-one additional agencies have applied to be authorised agencies. (The data retention bill pared down to 21 the number of authorised agencies.)

(Adding additional authorised agencies to the scheme on an ongoing basis requires legislative changes, but the attorney-general can temporarily authorise an agency. A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department confirmed that no temporary authorisations have been made.)

The Greens motion was backed by senators David Leyonhjelm, Ricky Muir and Nick Xenophon.

The motion was lost, with the Coalition and Labor, along with senators Glenn Lazarus and Dio Wang, voting against it.

The data retention scheme took effect in October.

To move-

That the Senate-

(a) notes that:

(i) the expensive, intrusive and ultimately pointless mandatory telecommunications data retention scheme was introduced in the 2015-16 Budget at a cost to taxpayers of $153.8 million,

(ii) mandatory data retention forces Australian Internet service providers and telecommunications carriers to retain comprehensive records on their customers' Internet and telephone habits for a period of 2 years,

(iii) the full cost of the scheme is in excess of $300 million but costs just 15 cents per day to circumvent via simple steps such as those helpfully articulated by the Prime Minister (Mr Turnbull), and

(iv) since the Australian Labor Party supported the Government in passing the bill, the number of additional agencies requesting warrantless access to metadata has included the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Border Force and the Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner; and

(b) calls on the Government to repeal the scheme.

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