Question Without Notice – Child Protection

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Justice. Will the minister update the House on what tools the government is providing to allow our joint law enforcement agencies to protect our children?

Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (14:29): I thank the Member for Hinkler for that question. He would be aware, as I am, that 87 per cent of child protection investigations involve the police accessing metadata—87 per cent—and, without certainty around access to this data, we would be wilfully blinding our police forces and tying one hand behind their backs in their efforts to protect our children.

Last week, the Prime Minister joined child protection advocate Hetty Johnston in support of metadata retention. She said and repeated that it was a vital tool that we needed to protect our children at risk of harm. If I can quote her, she said retaining metadata was a ‘no-brainer’. She said it was ‘about making sure that this country is the safest place to raise a child’ and that we should ‘make a determined effort’ to do so. These observations are equally applicable to other serious crime types, given that metadata is used in 100 per cent of cybercrime investigations, as well as 92 per cent of counterterrorism investigations and almost 80 per cent of other serious criminal investigations.

This morning, the Prime Minister has highlighted the steps that we have been taking to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the ability to respond to the changing security environment within Australia. We have introduced three tranches of legislation. The third tranche, the data retention bill, is the third vital piece that we need to keep Australians safe. I appreciate that there is concern within the community about this, but can I assure all Australians that this is not about Big Brother; this is a sensible response to the changing business model of internet service providers who are no longer retaining metadata for lengthy periods of time.

In this legislation we are making serious safeguards to protect people’s privacy. The content of communications is protected. This legislation does not provide one additional power to access content, which still will be required to be accessed via a warrant. We have also—and I think this is not well understood—actually limited the number of agencies that can have access to this type of data, and they must have a clear operational or investigative need for such access. At the same time, we are also enhancing the oversight of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. This is a sensible response to an ongoing security concern for our police, both state and federal, and for our intelligence community, and it strikes the right balance between privacy and those who would seek to do the community harm or do such things as to exploit or groom children for their own gratification.

We all understand the irresponsible position that is taken by the Greens on such matters. We only ever expect them to be hostage to their wild conspiracy theories about the way they think the world is run. But I urge Labor to rise above it and support this sensible and balanced approach to retaining metadata.

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