The data retention debate rages on in Parliament today, with second reading speeches taking place on the Abbott Government‘s proposed – and highly controversial – metadata laws.
“This is a bill to entrench a system of passive mass surveillance. It is corrosive of the very freedoms that Governments are elected to protect, and it has no place in a Democracy. And yet, it is a Democratically elected Parliament that is probably about to enact it. Nothing I say in here this afternoon is likely to change the minds or the votes of the Senators from the Liberal, National or Labor parties who will file in here later this week and vote the way they’ve been told to vote.“
But far from simply targeting the Government about the legislation, Ludlam sharpest barbs were saved for the Labor party and their perceived cave-in and lack of opposition in debating and challenging the bill on some of its finer points.
“When Prime Minister Abbott wraps himself in the flag, no matter how much an object of desperate ridicule he’s become, that’s the signal for the Australian Labor Party to say something earnest about finding the balance, and then to cave in.“
“Two words: National Security. [That] is all it takes for the Australian Labor Party to flop into defeated bipartisanship, because they’re terrified that the Daily Telegraph will say mean things about them.”
However, the really interesting and focused part of the speech (which we’ve embedded below and is absolutely worth watching all the way through) came when Ludlam began pointing out that, under the bounds of the law, it will remain entirely lawful for people to use VPNs to hide their internet activity, and began pointing out the off-shore services that the Government themselves have been using as of late.
“It is entirely lawful – in fact it’s built in to the bill – to circumvent mandatory data retention just by using overseas providers. If you don’t want your e-mail records kept under mandatory data retention, go with an overseas provider like GMail, or Yahoo, or Hotmail if that’s still around. Use Facebook Messenger. Use Twitter Direct Mail.”“Encryption is not illegal. Private key cryptography, including the very phone apps that Mr. Turnbull is using to orchestrate his takeover of the Prime Minister’s Office [is not illegal]. These systems keep no metadata. They leave no trace. They will be completely beyond the reach of this data retention scheme.““Free services like Tor – The Onion Router that allow you to use the internet anonymously – completely defeat the purpose of a mandatory data retention scheme, and everybody knows this. Virtual Private Networks available at a very reasonable subscription rate make it impossible to tell where in the world you are when you’re using the internet. Also not illegal. Anonymity is not illegal. Circumvention is not illegal. And cryptography is not illegal.”“What I’m proposing now is that we take our power back from a Government that quite clearly has drunk the surveillance Kool Aid, even though there is abundant evidence that it will do nothing at all to keep people safe, or to reduce crime.”
And if that weren’t quite enough in and of itself, Ludlam went a little step further, publicly stating Opposition Leader Bill Shorten‘s (office’s) phone number for people to register their objections to the bill should they feel the need.
“If you have a few moments to spare, call Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. His number is 02 6277 4022.“