Alice Drury, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, told the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that the laws retain data for too long, in this case two years.
“What’s at stake here is our ability to go about our lives without feeling like we’re constantly being watched,” Drury said in a statement.
“Under these laws, details of where every single one of us goes, every phone call we make and every single text message we send are stored by private corporations for more than two years.
“It is wrong and totally unnecessary to effectively spy on every single person in the country. These laws go way too far and need to be wound back.”
When the government was pushing to have the laws passed, it said that only a few agencies would have access to the data. But Drury pointed out that 87 different agencies, ranging from taxi oversight bodies to local councils, had made more than 350, 000 applications to this stash of private information.
The HRLC made a number of recommendations that it said would fix the laws:
- access to metadata should be restricted to law enforcement agencies in connection with serious crimes, rather than being given to hordes of government agencies in relation to minor things;
- a warrant should be required to access metadata to ensure there is independent oversight of the regime; and
- access to journalist and public interest whistleblower metadata should be prohibited except in limited circumstances.
Drury also called for the creation of an Australian charter of human rights. "The reality is that powerful corporations and governments don’t always respect the rights of individual people and communities. We need to create an Australian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that ensures everyone is treated fairly and with respect and dignity," she said.
"These are the types of values that should guide government decisions, policies and law-making."