They commended the Committee on the thoroughness of its work, which was undertaken in a limited timeframe. Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said: "The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has struck a reasonable balance in its examination of what is a highly complex set of issues.
"We welcome the fact that the Committee has focused on the protection of consumers' privacy, the need for government transparency and the necessity to develop proposals in consultation with industry and to take account of the cost implications for industry flowing from potential security-related reforms."
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) CEO Chris Althaus said many of the Committee's 43 recommendations reflected input received from the Communications Alliance, AMTA and individual service providers.
He said industry supported the PJCIS recommendation that if the Government pushes for a data retention regime that it does so transparently via circulation of draft legislation, installs a review mechanism of any regime and ensures that the Government reimburses additional costs imposed on industry – as happens in other countries.
Industry had estimated in its submissions to the PJCIS that the cost of setting up a data retention regime could run as high as $700 million. Althaus and Stanton said that the telecommunications industry remains strongly supportive of the Government's desire to ensure that agencies can access the information they need to fight serious crime and national threats, while balancing this against the protection of privacy and the cost to industry of specific initiatives - costs that will ultimately be borne by consumers.
“In this respect, additional discussion is required to determine what specific metadata might be retained and what costs would be incurred and reimbursed by government. We welcome reported comments by the Attorney-General that the Government would not pursue a data retention regime without further consultation.”
Communications Alliance and AMTA also welcomed the PJCIS recommendations that:
- The threshold for government agencies being given access to telecommunications data be reviewed, with a view to reducing the number of agencies that can gain such access.
- Duplicative legislation be removed.
- The telecommunications interception legislation be amended to provide greater clarity around the obligations on service providers.
- The Government should - if it wanted to impose time limits on telco service providers responding to security agencies - develop these in consultation with industry and take account of any additional costs to industry.
Stanton and Althaus said the PJCIS had recommended a balanced set of principles to underpin the review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.
“The PJCIS reflected specific industry concerns in its recommendations on proposed measures to give Government reassurance that nationally important telecommunications infrastructure was being protected against cyber or other attacks.
“The PJCIS recommended that Government proceed via a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) that would take account of factors including the existing legal obligations on service providers, potential effects on competition and the potential need for service providers to be given an indemnity against civil action when they are working in cooperation with Government agencies.
“The Communications Alliance and AMTA remain ready to work with the Government on the implementation of soundly based measures in the telecommunications security.”