A leaked Coalition party room document warns of a campaign against an ‘Internet tax’ if companies are forced to recover from consumers the cost from of maintaining metadata, if new security laws come into effect.
The leak comes on the same day that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the introduction to parliament of legislation that would require communications companies to keep customer metadata stored for two years. It would also allow law enforcement agencies access to that information without a warrant for two years.
Flanked by ASIO chief Duncan Lewis, Australian Federal Police chief Andrew Colvin and Attorney General George Brandis, Turnbull told reporters on Thursday that the bill was “not creating new classes of data to be retained”, but that it was necessary so that intelligence agencies could maintain their capabilities in light of evolving technology.
The leaked document was obtained by Fairfax Media on Thursday after being circulated at a snap Coalition MPs meeting about the metadata bill, held prior to Turnbull’s public announcement.
According to the leaked submission, “metadata is central to virtually every counterterrorism, organised crime, counter-espionage and cyber security investigation”.
It argues the fact that Internet Service Providers are currently not obliged to maintain metadata “is having a critical impact on law enforcement and national security capabilities”.
The document anticipates an aggressive campaign against the proposed new legislation and warns that it may be branded an ‘Internet tax’
The document states: “there is a strong likelihood that opponents will refer to the regime as an ‘internet tax’ that will be passed on to consumers. This is not an internet tax.”
“The government will consult closely with industry to determine how to manage additional compliance costs. Costs should also not be the reason that the safety of Australians is compromised,” it says.
The ASIO and AFP bosses reportedly addressed the party meeting. MPs were then only given half an hour to discuss the proposed legislation.
Two MPs said the snap meeting, which was only called on Wednesday night, appeared to simply be a “rubber stamp” for the government’s metadata retention legislation, according to Fairfax.
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