Thursday, 26 March 2015
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee
I am grateful to Senator Collins, not for not supporting the amendment but for pointing out that Roger Gyles is looking at these matters. But I think there is an urgency in dealing with them now. I understand what the position is. I hope—hope against hope—that, depending on what Mr Gyles concludes, this will be re-litigated, revisited or whatever. I have a serious concern about this.
I will refer to what the Australian Financial Review's international editor, Tony Walker, has said. In the Australian Financial Review on 27-28 September 2014, he said that it:
… will have a chilling effect on reporting of security matters in an environment in which parliamentary oversight provisions are extremely weak.
The legislation will sit on the statute books like a rotting carcass.
Cameron Stewart, who reports on security matters for the Australian, in responding to Media Watch questions on 3 October 2014, said this—and it is very telling:
… Australians will know less than they deserve to about what is happening inside security agencies at a time when they are larger and more powerful than ever before.
I would pose a question to the Attorney—and this is a question that could relate to any attorney. It could be that he could be Attorney for the next 20 years but there will be a successor to the Attorney one day. Under these provisions in respect of 35P, is it not the case that the Attorney has a wide discretion as to what can be declared a special intelligence operation? Could that not, for instance, declare that the execution of a warrant itself could be a special intelligence operation?