Brandis denies ‘overreach’ on national security laws

Attorney-general George Brandis has said that the government has not overreached with its national security laws and that it has crafted an “appropriate legislative response to the current threat” of terrorism

“I have taken great care to ensure that the measures that we are introducing are a measured and proportionate response,” Brandis said in an address to the National Press Club.

“The community expects the government to do what is necessary to protect the safety of the public. It also expects us not to over-reach. We have been careful not to do so.”

Brandis’ comments came after the lower house passed the government’s first tranche of national security legislation, which boosts ASIO’s hacking powers and has been criticised as potentially clamping down on media reporting of activities by Australia’s intelligence agencies.

Labor and the Coalition both backed the legislation this morning, with the major parties rejecting attempts by Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie to amend the bill.

"The Greens moved amendments that would have limited the number of computers that a single ASIO warrant could access and would have bolstered public interest protections for journalists and whistle-blowers," Bandt said after the government's legislation passed.

"Australians rely on Parliament to hold the government to account and protect the public interest, but with Labor cravenly signing up to Tony Abbott's khaki campaign, it was left to the crossbenchers to hold the government to account.

"It’s a shame that Labor failed to support the Greens and, as with so many other issues, chose to support Tony Abbott instead."

The government is introducing two further tranches of national security legislation. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for review.

The third tranche is a mandatory data retention scheme. Brandis said the scheme is currently the subject of discussion between his department, ASIO and telecommunications carriers.

“I want to assure you that what is being considered at the moment doesn’t not constitute the granting of any additional power nor does it … involve anything beyond what the telcos do at the moment,” Brandis said.

“The issue here, the concern is, that are their record-keeping practices, their business practices evolve and change, metadata that they currently retain is not going to be retained – it’s going to be lost and that is metadata is as you would know… a vital investigative tool…”

A number of telecommunications have contradicted government claims that they already retain the kind of data that a discussion paper said the government wanted retained for up to two years.

Vodafone last week said that it was still working on the capability to link assigned IP addresses to customer accounts.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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