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No change to civil litigant access under Data Retention Scheme

Joint Media Release

The Hon. George Brandis QC, Attorney-General

The Hon. Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications

The Turnbull Government has decided to leave in place existing restrictions on civil litigants accessing telecommunications data retained solely under the data retention scheme.

The decision follows a review conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Communications and the Arts, which found there was insufficient reason to justify making exceptions to the restrictions imposed by the data retention legislation.

The conduct of the review was a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Intelligence and Security. It is incorrect to say, as some have falsely asserted, that the review was conducted for the purposes of weakening existing restrictions.

The review received over 260 submissions from individuals and organisations. It considered the use of telecommunications data in the civil justice system, privacy of communications and the regulatory burden on the telecommunications industry.

In line with the Committee’s recommendation, the Government has completed this review and tabled its findings by 13 April 2017, which coincides with the end of the data retention implementation period.

The Government’s data retention legislation standardised the type of data telecommunications companies are required to retain and the length of time they need to keep it. It also reduced the number of agencies that can access the data – from over 80 to 21.

Metadata is the basic building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and organised crime investigation. It is also essential for investigating child abuse and child pornography offences that are frequently carried out online.

More information about the review is available at: www.ag.gov.au/Consultations/Pages/Access-to-telecommunications-data-in-civil-proceedings.aspx

Office of the Attorney-General: 02 6277 7300
Office of the Minister for Communications and the Arts: 02 6277 7480