Tony Abbott renews push for crime-fighting data retention laws, writes to Bill Shorten for bipartisan support

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has renewed his push for support for proposed data retention laws, attempting to explain the mechanics and functions of the government’s controversial crime-fighting proposals.

Asked to clarify what metadata was today, Abbott said: “Essentially metadata is data about data.”

“It’s the data that the system generates. The data that you the user generate is different and it will require a warrant for access. The police need general access on authorisation to the metadata,” he said.

“What we are asking the telecommunications companies to do is to keep the data that they generate. We’re asking them to keep doing what they used to do, which increasingly they’re not doing because of the change in technology.”

The government has struggled to explain the nature of the proposals to the public, with attorney-general George Brandis memorably imploding in a TV interview on the subject last year.

Abbott is pushing for “vitally important” metadata legislation to be passed through parliament as “quickly as possible”.

“Police and other crime-fighting agencies are going blind,” Abbott said. “That’s why we need this metadata legislation passed.”

Abbott said the legislation was required to keep up with developments in technology.

“We have, if you like, a burning platform and as a result of that burning platform police and other crime-fighting agencies are going blind,” he said.

A standing committee report will be released to parliament at the end of February.

Abbott said government wants the parliament to deal with it as “quickly as possible”, reinforcing that the legislation is “absolutely critical in fighting crime”.

When asked to clarify what metadata was, Abbott said, “Essentially metadata is data about data.”

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin supported the PM’s advancement of the controversial legislation.

“This is a basic foundation building block for police in this country,” Colvin said.

“Without it… we would be severely hampered.”

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said, “Every serious crime type whether it be murder, rape… requires metadata.”

In a personal letter to Opposition leader Bill Shorten dated January 22, Abbott highlighted the importance of passing the legislation “at the earliest opportunity”.

In light of these vivid demonstrations of the importance of metadata for tackling the growing threat of home-grown extremism, I would again like to underline the importance of bipartisan support…
We would expect passage through both Houses [of Parliament] early in the week commencing 16 March.

The PM also said he was “encouraged” by Shorten’s recent comments that he would, “work with all appropriate commitment to make sure that we get the best laws to protect Australia.”

In this spirit and in keeping with your bipartisanship on national security, I strongly urge you to support the prompt consideration and passage a Bill which gives our agencies the best possible capability to protect the safety of our community.

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