There are many arguments against the Government’s proposed data retention laws, on civil liberties, practical and cost grounds.
Cost has emerged as an important issue in recent weeks, especially after the refusal of the Attorney-General’s Department to release the report on costings the Government commissioned from consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Now Prime Minister Tony Abbott has for the first time given an estimate. Speaking at child child protection group Bravehearts on the Gold Coast today, he said: "There are a range of figures which have been taken to the committee, but even at the highest estimate it's less than 1% of this $40 billion a year and growing sector," he said, trying to talk it down.
"It seems like a small price to pay to give ourselves the kind of safety and the kind of freedom that people in a country like Australia deserve."
Putting aside the argument that many critics of data retention believe it will actually significantly reduce our freedoms, many believe that this figure of $400 million is not as trivial as the Prime Minister seems to believe, and is actually a very significant figure.
Communications Alliance spokesman John Stanton said the ICT industry was still waiting to find out how much of the cost would be covered by taxpayers. He told the ABC’s The World Today radio show. "It still amounts to a very significant cost and impost that needs to be paid.
"The Government has so far said that it will make a reasonable contribution, so there's a great deal of interest to see how much of the total burden the Government proposes to contribute." Stanton has previously said that the industry already carries the cost of organisations like ACMA, ACCAN and the TIO, and it was unreasonable to lumber it with more costs.
Abbott seemed to retreat from the idea that the Government would make any contribution at all. Asked if industry would have to pay, Abbott said: "It is very important that if you do business in this country, you adhere to the rules".