Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Decision on National Security Legislation
The Government has made no decisions regarding the matters referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security - including data retention.
The purpose of the referral is to seek the valuable input of the Committee's members and provide an opportunity for public hearings and broad consultation. The Attorney-General has emphasised that the referral is the beginning of the process and the Government is seeking diverse views before determining which legislative reforms it will pursue.
The law enforcement and national security environment has changed substantially since the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 was introduced. With some legislation becoming dated, it is timely to ask what reforms might be needed to ensure that law enforcement and national security agencies continue to have the tools and capabilities necessary to protect the community from emerging threats, in particular from organised criminal and terrorist groups.
As well as considering modernisation and new or emerging threats, the Government is very conscious we must strike the right balance to ensure that safeguards and privacy protections in the relevant legislation are well-adapted for the modern communications environment.
Despite some of the public debate, it is not correct that the Government has plans to track everything said on social media sites. But you should be aware that we do believe social networking providers have a role to play in combating crime, just as the established telecommunications industry providers do. It was never intended to allow social media to be a "safe haven" for criminal activity. We know, for example, that the rise of social media has led to new forms of old crimes, such as online fraud and paedophiles "grooming" children. No-one should advocate this being beyond the reach of the law.
Of course, new technology, new threats or old threats in new forms simply underline the need for a review to consider where our laws are appropriate and where they no longer meet the community's needs.
No law would require people to give passwords to law enforcement. Any new possible requirement to assist in the decryption of communication would only apply, where an independent issuing authority is satisfied that the encrypted communications relate to the commission of serious offences. This is because technologically sophisticated criminals are known to encrypt their communications because they suspect they might be under interception. This would help the police turn unintelligible communications into useable evidence. This would be consistent with existing provisions of the Crimes Act 1914.
These are important issues that the Government wishes to explore.
If you are interested, Senator Moore encourages you to follow the public hearings and submissions as well as providing your views to the Committee for consideration in the preparation of their report. Details of the inquiry can be found at this link: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/index.htm and submissions can be forwarded to the Committee via the secretariat's email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
When the Committee finishes the inquiry and tables it's report the Government will consider the Committee's findings carefully.
Please contact Senator Moore's office on 0732527101 should you have any further questions on this issue.