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Attorney-General's update on the inquiry into potential reforms to national security legislation

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Published on Sep 10, 2012

Hi, I'm Nicola Roxon. I'm the Commonwealth Attorney-General and I'd like to thank you for taking the time to watch this short video to find out what's really happening with the review that I have commissioned of national security legislation.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that we live in a changing world where technology is forever evolving. Gone are the days when we relied on landline phones, the odd fax or two and mail to keep us all connected.

Today almost all of us have mobile phones, we can send emails, get on Skype, Facebook, Twitter... You're watching me now online. Really, we're spoilt for choice.
But, just as you and I have benefited from this remarkable change in communications technology, criminals and terrorist have also benefited.

As the Attorney-General, I want to make sure that our police and national security agencies can keep up with this rapidly evolving technology and the new environment
Of course we must also have the right checks and balances in place to ensure that national security powers are not abused and that the privacy of Australians is respected.
When the Howard Government wanted new laws for national security, the decisions were taken behind closed doors, and put to the Parliament at the end of the process.
Our Government, in contrast, wants to make sure that all the options are on the table for the public to see. And I want to make sure that politicians from both sides of the Parliament have the time to scrutinise them in detail.

So that's what's happening now. I've asked the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for their views, before deciding my own position.
But at the same time -- it is really important that the proposals are scrutinised closely and people don't jump to conclusions.

That's why I want to address some of the claims that have been made by a range of organisations and individuals -- including by GetUp!.

GetUp! claims that companies will be required by law to store every message you send, every website you visit, every conversation you have, or product you buy for two years.
This is simply not true.

Right now the Police and ASIO can get access to what's called "metadata" -- such things as the time an email is sent and who it is sent to. But, not to the content. That's already the law and it is important for fighting crime. And it is subject to strong legal safeguards.

One of the many things in this review is whether or not that metadata should have to be held for a certain period, so it is there if it is needed. Sometimes it is already held by telecommunications companies for two years and internet service providers, but sometimes it gets deleted.

So that's the question we're asking. Should we make keeping this metadata a requirement, and if we do -- how long should it be required for? Should it be six months? A year? Two?

The important thing to remember is if the Police are hunting down a criminal -- they already have the power to find out who he or she has emailed -- but if the internet service providers delete that information, then their tracks will be covered.
None of this involves storing the content of messages.

GetUp! has also claimed that ASIO will be able to demand your passwords to access your computer or Facebook, and if you refuse you could go to jail.

Again, that's totally false. There is no proposal that people give up passwords.

But sophisticated criminals, particularly paedophiles, are known to encrypt their information. There are already powers for law enforcement agencies under warrant to compel suspects to decrypt data held on a computer to turn unintelligible information into compelling evidence against these serious criminals.

The question we're asking the committee is whether this should extend to live communications like chat rooms for crimes like paedophilia.

I understand there is a great deal of interest in these reforms. But, I also think it's very important that people have the right facts. And that's why I've made this video today.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security are considering these reforms right now.

I expect the Committee to provide its report to the Government by the end of this year. The Government will then consider the report before we finalise our proposal.

As I've said, the Government wants to make sure it has advice from the experts and hears from the community before making decisions on these important reforms. Thank you for your interest.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Attorney-General's Office on 02 6277 7300.

Further information about the Inquiry is available from the Committee's website: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_B...

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