ASIO: ASIO needs more power

Precisely no body is surprised by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s submission to the ongoing inquiry into national security reforms. ASIO has used their submission to champion an Australian data retention regime and to ask for an increased budget.

ASIO recommends following the lead set by the EU Data Retention Directive. Although this is new information for the committee, the IPA had always assumed this would be the government’s blueprint. This is the same regime found to be unconstitutional in Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and the Czech Republic for fundamentally breaching citizens’ right to online privacy. Sweden, Ireland and Greece have also refused to implement the regime.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has also used the EU scheme as a template for a future data retention regime in this country. In a letter sent to the committee considering the proposal, Roxon asserts that “agencies have indicated that the need to access this information is immediate.” But that’s not even mildly remarkable. Government agencies are always asking for more power, more staff and more money. This isn’t a justification; it’s how government does business.

But perhaps the most concerning thing about Roxon’s letter is that it reveals that data retention is a fait accompli. Roxon’s letter states “I look forward to obtaining your advice on what you would consider to be an appropriate data retention scheme in Australia.” Wait…what? Not whether a regime would be appropriate? No, apparently the committee is just there to tell her which one we will be implementing.

Both ASIO and Roxon assert that the regime is important for Australia’s national security. ASIO stated in their submission that such a scheme “has important investigative advantages.” But the advantages it refers to must be something other than catching terrorists. The effectiveness of the much-vaunted EU regime was tested by German researchers in 2010. The results demonstrated what an abysmal failure the regime is – no increase in statistically significant crime clearance rates.

Not only would the regime extinguish a right to online privacy, it won’t even help ASIO do its job.

The champions of this proposal should be busy justifying this extraordinary incursion into our private lives. Instead they’re using motherhood statements. It’s insulting.

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