Australian Attorney General says that public scrutiny of spying bill would not be in the public interest

The Australian government is following the UK, US and Canadian governments' examples and establishing a secretive, no-holds-barred snooping regime. The "data retention" bill that's been prepared by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department requires ISPs to store all communications for two years, and grants wide access to those stored records, as well as allowing snooping on residents' social networking activities. What's more, the Attorney General has denied a Freedom of Information request for a look at the draft legislation from the Pirate Party, saying that public scrutiny of spying laws is "not in the public interest" and would be prejudicial to the decision-making process.

The Pirate Party, which is an activist and political organisation which lobbies to maintain and extend Australians’ digital rights and freedoms, issued a media release this morning noting that it had filed a Freedom of Information request with the department, seeking draft national security legislation which had been prepared in 2010 with respect to the current proposal. The draft legislation had been mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in an article in August.

However, the Attorney-General’s Department wrote back to the organisation this week, noting that the request had been denied. Logan Tudor, a legal officer with the department, wrote that he had decided that the draft legislation was exempted from being released because it contained material which was being deliberated on inside the department. “… the release of this material would, in my view, be contrary to the public interest,” Tudor wrote.

In the Pirate Party’s statement, its treasurer Rodney Serkowski described the response by the Attorney-General’s Department as “disgraceful and troubling”.

“They have completed draft legislation, prior to any transparent or consultative process, and are now denying access to that legislation, for reasons that are highly dubious and obviously politically motivated,” wrote Serkowski. “The Department is completely trashing any semblance or notion of transparency or participative democratic process of policy development.”

Govt censors pre-prepared data retention bills (via /.)


  1. We seem to be moving into a new form of feudalism in “democratic” countries where the governments have forgotten that the people own them, not the other way around. I do not predict that this will come to a good ending for one side or the other.


    The whole letter.

    It’s fairly common for drafts of bills, internal working documents, and research, not to be shown until they are presented to parliament for first reading. It’s not really a great practice, but it is common.

    Stopping or slowing down the collection of information is a great short term goal. But if you want to see real change, amend the freedom of information act to allow better oversight.

  3. I’m not so much concerned about what the current Labor Gov would do with this database, I’m more concerned what would happen if/when the current opposition got into power, I think there’s a serious chance they’d happily allow the music/movie industry to mine that data and start slamming filesharers.

  4. A whole lot of related info on the govt’s plans and responses to it are available here if anyone wants any further reading.

    The transcripts of the hearings are mighty facepalm worthy as we hear luddite senators try, and largely fail, to come to grips with internet communications technology.

    There is, as far as i know, precedence for sharing draft legislation, so in my opinion the reasons given for deny the FOI are pretty bunk.

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