Government admits it gave false answers on data retention plans

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The Attorney-General's Department has admitted it had legislation drafted for a data retention scheme, changing answers it previously provided to Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam in Senate Estimates hearings.

"In May I asked the AG's Department for details of its consultation with the telecommunications industry on data retention and any legislation that had been drafted for it. At the time, Department representatives said there had been no formal discussions with the sector and that no legislation had been drafted. Today the Department has written to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to correct their misleading answers," said Senator Ludlam.

"I was told there were some ‘vague draft provisions' not related to data retention. For the Attorney-General's Department to now claim they were referring to the fact a complete Bill had not been drafted is mischievous at best. There were two draft provisions on data retention and the Department did not reveal this under specific questioning.

"The Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security report released in late June on data retention and other proposals declined to recommend data retention, and rightfully slammed the Attorney-General's Department for its secretive approach. It is now confirmed the Government's approach on data retention was even worse than initially thought."

Senator Ludlam has put a Freedom of Information application to the Attorney General's Department for "letters, emails, file notes, records of phone conversations or meetings, memos or reports about the drafting of legislation or regulations on data retention between the Attorney General's Department and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel" dating from 1 January 2009. The Department has acknowledged it received the request on 19 June.

The letter the Department wrote to the Committee today to correct the record on its answers.