Australian Data Retention Plan Swept Under The Rug...For Now [Updated]

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has just published its report into proposed reforms of key pieces of National Security legislation. There's a bunch of interesting stuff in there, but most of all, it includes one huge buck-pass over proposed mandatory data retention scheme. Looks like it's finally dead after all.

The proposed scheme would have (roughly) seen Australian ISPs collect and retain data on users for a pre-specified period for use in law enforcement activities later down the line. The nation, and key members of Parliament, have been divided on the issue, with one politician saying that the system would treat all Australians "like criminals".

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security today issued a 300-page report into the many reforms it considered. Here's what the committee had to say regarding data retention (emphasis added):

There is a diversity of views within the Committee as to whether there should be a mandatory data retention regime. This is ultimately a decision for Government. If the Government is persuaded that a mandatory data retention regime should proceed, the Committee recommends that the Government publish an exposure draft of any legislation and refer it to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for examination.

There's a fair chance here that the Government won't get a chance to examine this legislation before it enters Caretaker Mode ahead of the September Federal election. We may have to wait until next year before it even gets a first reading.

It's particularly poignant that this piece of controversial national security reform be passed over to the Government in light of the US Government's PRISM program which serves to monitor the web traffic of companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

We have reached out to the Attorney-General's office to see where the legislation — if any — goes from here.

UPDATE: The Sydney Morning Herald's Ben Grubb is reporting that the AG won't pursue a mandatory data retention scheme.

Update 2: The Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, has just issued a full statement on the report. Here's what he had to say about data retention:

Accordingly, the Government will not pursue a mandatory data retention regime at this time and will await further advice from the departments and relevant agencies and comprehensive consultation.

Of course, this doesn't mean that the issues is dead and buried forever. It's just sleeping, if you will. We have reached out to Shadow Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, to see if the Coalition would revive the pursuit for mandatory data retention should it win the September 14 Federal Election.

If you're concerned about National Security amendments and what the government can snoop on, it's worth reading the full report. [Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security]

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