Open Letter to ALP Senators - data retention

Dear Senators,

We write to set out our concerns regarding the Data Retention Bill presently before the Parliament.

We are deeply troubled by the provisions of the Bill, even with the amendments passed by the House of Representatives. In particular, we are concerned that:

  • The government has not demonstrated that this Bill is necessary, proportionate and reasonable,


  • the Bill constitutes an unacceptable invasion into the private lives of Australians, impacting also on freedom of expression and association and is also an attack on the presumption of innocence;


  • the Bill does not target those suspected of committing any offence; rather, if enacted it will invade and sweep aside the privacy of all Australians;


  • the Bill does not provide any threshold on access to data for investigation of only serious contraventions of the law;


  • the Bill raises significant doubts as to the protection of legal professional privilege. Moreover, Liberty believes that any requests for access to telecommunications data by any person or organisation should be permitted only by way of a judicial warrant, or a comparable warrant issued by a senior member of an independent quasi-judicial body (such as a Tribunal).


  • The “journalist information warrant” provision does not go far enough to mitigate the chilling effect of this Bill. Sources will still be able to be identified in other ways.


  • The disclosure offence relating to information about a journalist information warrant that attracts an up to 2 year jail penalty must be removed.


  • The retained data is likely to be an attractive target to hackers. The Bill will require services providers to retain more data and for longer periods than their business needs require. The consequences of probable leaks and breaches of retained telecommunications data may be extremely damaging to the personal privacy of countless Australian citizens.


  • The retained data will require stringent protective security measures which are likely to be exceptionally expensive;


  • as ISPs have already explained, the costs involved in implementing the Bill are likely to be very high. It is inevitable that this will cause a significant increase in the pricing of telephone and internet services to ordinary consumers;


  • the Bill provides no certainty for service providers in meeting the costs of compliance with the regime,


  • protections such as those proposed for individual professions, e.g. journalists, are plainly insufficient and limited. They do not provide the privacy protections Australian citizens expect and that they are entitled to demand.

Liberty Victoria believes that the Bill should not be passed by the Parliament until the matters outlined above are comprehensively considered and addressed.

We urge the Labor party not to settle for fatally compromised protections of Australians’ privacy. There is simply no need in Australia’s current security climate for such intrusive and draconian measures. Nor is there any conclusive international or nationally produced evidence to suggest that these measures will assist significantly in the prevention of terrorist offences.

We are deeply concerned that the Government’s attempts to hasten this Bill through Parliament are designed evade further, desirable scrutiny and examination of this highly controversial legislative proposal.

We know that you share many of our concerns regarding proper protection and promotion of the rights of Australians. Consequently, we urge you and your party to delay the passage of this Bill at the very least until some clear guarantees can be given to Australians that their individual privacy is a priority and will be properly protected.


Yours sincerely,

George A Georgiou, President and Jessie Taylor, Vice-President

Liberty Victoria