Jonathan Holmes published an article entitled A chilling step closer to Australian secret police in The Age today. In it, Holmes points out the dangers inherent in the new Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015.
The legislation has been passed with the support of both major parties but Holmes raises some serious considerations particularly in relation to the ability of police to access metadata of journalists. Access to metadata that would allow authorities to identify a journalists’ sources, which is particularly worrying in the cases of whistleblowing and government corruption.
Still more worrying for Holmes and for all journalists is that although authorities need the approval of a senior bureaucrat before accessing anyone’s metadata, they do this without the knowledge or agreement of the individual. When the application to access the metadata is made, the Prime Minister no less appoints a senior official to argue the case for the metadata not being accessed.
And here is the amazing bit. The individual concerned is not informed of this process, not able to make a submission or able to brief the person who is defending his or her rights. They don’t even appear to have the right to know whether the application was successful or not.
Holmes sees this as a dangerous step towards a police state.
I think he is right.