The inquiry reflects recommendation 26 in the Committee's recent Advisory report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 (Cth):
The Committee acknowledges the importance of recognising the principle of press freedom and the protection of journalists' sources. The Committee considers this matter requires further consideration before a final recommendation can be made.
The Committee therefore recommends that the question of how to deal with the authorisation of a disclosure or use of telecommunications data for the purpose of determining the identity of a journalist's source be the subject of a separate review by this Committee.The Committee is expected to report back to Parliament within three months.
The review will consider international best practice, including data retention regulation in the United Kingdom.
The Committee states
The Committee’s Chair, Mr Dan Tehan MP said “In its previous inquiry, the Committee acknowledged the importance of recognising the principle of press freedom and the protection of journalists’ sources.”
“Balancing this with the needs of law enforcement and security agencies to investigate serious offences, it was apparent that further consideration was needed on the question of how to deal with the authorisation of a disclosure or use of telecommunications data for the purpose of determining a journalist’s source”, he added.
“The Committee looks forward to engaging with stakeholders in a separate review on this matter.” In its previous inquiry on the Data Retention Bill, the Committee recommended a number of additional safeguards relating to agency access to telecommunications data. These included specific oversight by the Ombudsman or the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (as appropriate), and the Committee, of any instance where a journalist’s data is accessed by an agency for the purpose of determining a source. The Committee’s recommendations were supported by the Government.
The Data Retention Bill will require service providers to retain a standard set of telecommunications data for two years. The regime will commence six months after passage of the Bill, followed by an 18 month implementation phase.
The Bill includes measures to increase safeguards around how agencies access telecommunications data, including an enhanced oversight role for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and new restrictions on which agencies may access data.
In undertaking the new inquiry, the Committee intends to consult with media representatives, law enforcement and security agencies and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.