Thursday, 26 March 2015
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee
I withdraw Australian Greens amendments (41) and (42) on sheet 7669. They were consequential to earlier amendments that, regrettably, I did not have the numbers to pass. So I will not be proceeding with moving those. I move amendment (43) on sheet 7669:
(43) Schedule 3, item 7, page 77 (after line 29), after subsection 186B(1), insert:
(1A) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), the Ombudsman must inspect the records of each enforcement agency at least once every 6 months in relation to authorisations under Division 3, 4 or 4A of Part 4-1.
This is the last Australian Greens amendment that we will bring forward. Its purpose is fairly simple. It is to explicitly require the Commonwealth Ombudsman to examine every six months the records of agencies which have access to metadata. The Ombudsman has been brought more closely into the orbit of oversight of the regime. I do not think at the moment that this regime, particularly access to metadata, has anything like the amount of oversight that it is going to need, given the volume of requests that go through and the evident problems and issues that have been well canvassed during this debate. Nonetheless, the Ombudsman does have a closer role. I would like to know the degree to which the Ombudsman's office will be given a greater amount of resourcing to conduct those additional activities.
We would like to see the Ombudsman have that regular and very cyclical inspection and reporting obligation—the inspection, therefore, being every six months. The reason for this is simple. Unlike the warranted access to material which has that judicial oversight—it is sought through the AAT or it is sought through judges—there is no such oversight role. I am not sure that many people realise that there are probably thousands of people in agencies around this country who are authorised to be in receipt of a two-page form, a double-sided piece of A4 paper, with the target individuals or networks or devices that are handed directly to the phone companies or the internet service providers, and then the material is forthcoming. There is no intermediary. There is no judicial oversight. So, at the very minimum, we would like that to be the Commonwealth Ombudsman, given that the proposal to bring bulk or intrusive metadata within the warranted regime was rejected. This is really a last ditch attempt to providing a greater measure of transparency and oversight to a system that I believe is fundamentally broken.