Government commits to significant metadata reform
The Albanese Government has committed to overdue reform of Australia’s metadata retention laws in its response to the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) review of the Mandatory Data Retention Regime.
The Government accepts all of the committee’s bipartisan recommendations, with the exception of one, which the Government has accepted in part, and another which has been noted because its implementation would require support from the states and territories.
The PJCIS tabled its review in October 2020, making 22 unanimous and bipartisan recommendations for revised practices and legislative reform. The former government never responded to this report.
The PJCIS concluded that while the Mandatory Data Retention Regime provides critical assistance to law enforcement and intelligence services, the regime lacks transparency and adequate safeguards.
The PJCIS raised concerns about the absence of clear guidelines for agencies that access and manage metadata under the Mandatory Data Retention Regime, inadequate record-keeping obligations and the fact that the legislation does not require officers who are authorised to access telecommunications data to undertake specific training. The Commonwealth Ombudsman echoed many of these concerns in September 2022.
The PJCIS also heard evidence that a large number of non-criminal law enforcement agencies, including local councils, were using other laws to gain access to people’s metadata outside of the Mandatory Data Retention Regime. The PJCIS argued that such practices should cease.
The Albanese Government shares these concerns and is determined to address them.
The Government is committed to ensuring the Mandatory Data Retention Regime continues to support the work of law enforcement and national security agencies while also ensuring that these powers are subject to appropriate safeguards.
The Government will now work to implement the Committee’s recommendations as soon as practicable.