Apr 3, 2014

Attorney-General’s moves fast on new telco security arrangements

The Attorney-General's Department is pursuing a new security framework to bring telecommunications companies and ISPs under tighter government control. But it appears to be treading softly on data retention.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Attorney-General’s Department has rushed to implement a set of wide-ranging reforms and extensions to telecommunications and IT interception powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies, new documents reveal.

Within weeks of George Brandis being appointed Attorney-General in September, his department began a concerted push to obtain his approval for the development of a package of reforms along the lines proposed by then-attorney-general Nicola Roxon in 2012, starting with an industry consultation process. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Crikey (large PDF) — heavily redacted or exempted — show the department eager to use the report of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security as a “road map” to implement over 40 reforms.

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4 thoughts on “Attorney-General’s moves fast on new telco security arrangements

  1. paddy

    Given Tanya Plibersek’s supposedly “progressive” leanings, I can’t recall a dumber move than her suggestion she was relaxed about data retention.
    Have definitely got fingers & toes crossed, that Scott Ludlam gets back into the Senate this weekend.
    He appears to be one of the few parliamentarians who actually *gets it*, when it comes to data retention.

  2. bluepoppy

    When will the AG give the green light to mass collection of snail mail.

  3. AR

    BlueP – ironically, at the moment snail mail is more secure from the spooks than the digi-stuff but it was not always so. When I joined the PMG in 1964 there were three rooms in the sub-sub basement of Martin Place GPO wherein they resided, drunks and kiddie fiddlers all, who get their jollies opening & reading the mail of subversives.
    The point about the State is that it never gives up in its intrinsic impulse to control everything(see Kafka – it’s not so much evil as the nature of the beast), even the pointless & irrelevant. No matter how often the demand for total control is rebuffed, the inadequates & resentful (to be generous)who staff it just keep on keepin’ on until they succeed.

  4. Brendan Jones

    Public surveillance and data retention creates a chilling effect on free speech, where citizens are reluctant to criticise the government.

    It discourages citizens from criticising the government; Anonymous speech is the only way for people to criticise powerful figures without exposing themselves to retribution.

    It discourages citizens who might one day want to work in the public service from expressing political opinions.

    It discourages people from working for the public service, because they cannot safely express political opinions, even anonymously.

    The US takes a more enlightened view: “The general legal theory is that the public’s interest in how public dollars are spent and public safety decisions are made is very strong, and public employees are in a very good position to address those public interests.” Not so Australia where a public servant reporting government mismanagement or corruption faces 2 years jail.

    It silences whistleblowers, who risk persecution by the AFP if they report government crime or corruption which the AFP themselves routinely ignore. The “But I’ve got nothing to hide” crowd should consider that without anonymity, nurses and doctors cannot safely report hospital malpractice.

    It allows corrupt public officials to engage in commercial espionage, advantaging government enterprises and party donors. It discourages people from talking to journalists, whose sources can be easily identified. It allows corrupt public officials to keep a tab on whistleblowers or journalists investigating them.

    Clearly limiting the public’s ability to criticise the Australian government far from increasing public safety, is actually harming it. Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    ASIO cannot be trusted, and neither can the Attorney-General’s Department whose stated mission is to uphold the rule of law, yet they consistently fail to act while public officials flagrantly break civil and criminal law. The Attorney-General’s Department is systemically corrupt.

    What’s so hypocritical here is both the Labor and Liberal parties tolerate crime and corruption in the Australian Public Service. They claim to care about national security, but their spying and incursions on Indonesia are themselves inflammatory *and* the NSA’s spying US has not stopped a single terrorist attack.

    Yet as Plibersek calls for *more* surveillance, both parties remain silent on the many cases where surveillance has been abused. And using ASIO to spy for Woodside breached Section 142.2 of the Criminal Code , yet the IGIS failed to investigate and neither government nor opposition has pursued the matter.

    142.2 Abuse of public office
    (1) A Commonwealth public official is guilty of an offence if:
    (a) the official
    (i) exercises any influence that the official has in the official’s capacity as a Commonwealth public official; or
    (ii) engages in any conduct in the exercise of the official’s duties as a Commonwealth public official; or
    (iii) uses any information that the official has obtained in the official’s capacity as a Commonwealth public official; and
    (b) the official does so with the intention of:
    (i) dishonestly obtaining a benefit for himself or herself or for another person; or
    (ii) dishonestly causing a detriment to another person.

    Penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

    @AR > The point about the State is that it never gives up in its intrinsic impulse to control everything

    So true! Nock: Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, its first instinct is that of self-preservation. All its enterprises are directed first towards preserving its own life, and, second, towards increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity.” “The idea that the State originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical.”

    Yesterday we saw RBA governor Glenn Stevens and Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson calling for more taxes. How about less taxes, and we cut the APS to the bone instead?

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