Australian politics, society & culture

Friday, 31st October 2014


Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday introduced into Parliament the third tranche of the Abbott government’s new “national security” laws: those requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to keep what security authorities call “metadata” for two years, and to hand it over to them when they want it. “Metadata” is data that records the times, dates, locations and IP addresses of phone calls, emails and internet access, but not content or URLs.

But the government has also agreed to delay the vote on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill until next year, which will allow the Joint Parliament Committee on Intelligence and Security to assess it. As things stand, neither Turnbull nor Attorney General George Brandis has made a case for the laws beyond declaring that the security authorities need them. But at a confused press conference yesterday morning, the examples they gave were of successful prosecutions using existing laws.

The confusion is philosophical as well: Turnbull still has a 2012 speech on his website arguing against metadata retention, and Brandis has presented himself as the great defender of liberal freedoms while undermining those freedoms at every opportunity. But if the Data Retention Bill lacks political or philosophical coherence, then so does much of the government's legislative agenda to date. As Michelle Grattan points out, the GST debate is back after being ruled out by Tony Abbott in opposition, and Greg Hunt is now firmly opposed to emissions trading after strongly advocating for it in his honours thesis and under Turnbull's leadership of the Liberal Party.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Coal miner approves Direct Action

The Coalition's Direct Action policy passed through the Senate last night after yesterday's deal between the government and coal-miner Clive Palmer (Fairfax). Tristan Edis at the Business Spectator says it doesn't pass muster, and John Quiggan at the Drum reminds us that there are four existing reports which recommend an ETS. Geoffrey Cousins slammed the Business Council for its advocacy of Direct Action (Australian).

Meanwhile it appears that climate change will be on the G20 agenda next month after all, despite Tony Abbott's efforts to keep it off (SMH).

Nothing to worry about

Responding to journalists' well-founded fears that new security laws might see them prosecuted and even gaoled for doing their job, George Brandis yesterday reassured them that he would need to authorise any prosecutions (Fairfax).

Former national security legislation monitor Bret Walker SC told 7.30 last night that the Abbott government's draconian new security laws are unlikely to ever be repealed (ABC).

A union loss, and a union win

In response to what the Australian calls "damning royal commission evidence", Tony Abbott this morning announced a joint federal-state police task force to investigate criminal conduct in Victorian unions, with similar taskforces in other states to follow. The Australian reports that "the announcement is a bid to help bolster the election campaign of Victorian Premier Denis Napthine".

Meanwhile the Senate is set to vote against the Coalition's attempt to roll back the Fair Entitlements Guarantee for employees who lose their jobs when companies go broke (ABC).

Asset recycling inquiry

The Senate will hold an inquiry into Joe Hockey's infrastructure plan that would see states "incentivised" to sell off assets in exchange for federal government funds for new projects (Fairfax).

Playing the man

Christopher Pyne yesterday attacked the credibility of ALP-commissioned NATSEM modelling which allows university students to work out how his proposed fee deregulation would affect them. NATSEM's principal researcher Ben Phillips strongly refuted Pyne's attack (Guardian).