The team behind the development of Australia's mandatory data retention scheme, which has been described by the telecommunications industry as "ridiculous", have been given an award by Attorney-General's Department secretary Chris Moraitis for their "exceptional" work.
The legislation forcing telecommunications providers to keep customer call logs, IP addresses, location information and other so-called metadata for two years passed Parliament in March last year, and the estimated 419 telecommunications companies in Australia were given just six months to develop a plan with the Attorney-General's Department as to how they would comply with the new legislation.
In October, just before the deadline, telecommunications companies were publicly complaining about tight timeframes and a general lack of clarity over exactly what data it was the government wanted the companies to keep.
"We seem to be bullied and pushed down a specific path with the dates and the timeframes that are being thrown at us," Skeeve Stevens from Eintellego Networks said at the time
"There is such a mess, and so many unanswered questions, and [the department] needs [the information] in six weeks? Get serious, people, this is just ridiculous."
A total of 232 telecommunications companies applied for and received extensions until April 2017 to get their systems ready to keep the data for two years, but the Attorney-General's Department has admitted that not all telecommunications companies are compliant. Those that have not submitted an implementation plan or asked for an extension could face fines.
The government had also been promising $131 million to pay for the companies to build these new systems, despite estimates the scheme would cost $319 million at a minimum. This was then scaled back to $128.4 million with the department keeping $2.9 million for "administration" of the scheme, including setting up application systems, a phone and email hotline service, and to run workshops.
Despite the complaints from industry, Moraitis has awarded the team responsible for the scheme in his annual Secretary Award, handed out in August last year. The news of the award was revealed in a response to a question on notice from Senate estimates released today, ahead of the next round of estimates hearings next week.
In a speech given as part of the awards, Moraitis said the team "led a fundamental and giant leap to address the impact of the changing telecommunications environment" working in "extraordinary timeframes":
"The team did all of this while developing a novel industry support program and encountered policy obstacles that had to be experienced to be believed. Most importantly they delivered a product of exceptional quality under extreme pressure, and continue to demonstrate perseverance and dedication in the implementation of this ambitious project. The team were a credit to themselves and this department, and a true demonstration of both teamwork and AGD's ability to deliver ground-breaking reform in testing circumstances."
There were 18 team nominations for the year, and the data retention team was one of only two teams last year to receive an award.