The non-profit national organisation, that has been promoting digital freedom, access and privacy in Australia since 1994, said in a media release that it welcomed the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights which had made it plain that protections for journalists in mandatory data retention laws were inadequate and may "limit the right to an effective remedy, fair hearing, privacy and freedom of expression".
EFA chairman David Cake was quoted in the media release as saying: "It’s simply not possible to carve one section of the community out of a mandatory, society-wide data retention scheme.
"While protecting journalist's sources in order to facilitate effective whistle-blowing is critical to ensuring accountability in the public sector, there are many other privileged communications that also deserve protection, including lawyer-clients, doctor-patients and many others.
"The only way to achieve effective protection is for a warrant requirement to be implemented for all access to retained telecommunications data."
He urged parliament to review the data retention laws and implement a universal warrant requirement for access to retained telecommunications data, adding that without this requirement, "the mandatory data retention scheme represents a clear and serious threat not only to the privacy of all Australians but to the ability of the media to hold governments to account. As such, it undermines the effective functioning of Australia’s democracy".
The EFA also noted that Brandis had not kept to his commitment to introduce laws before the year-end making it mandatory for data breaches to be notified.
The organisation said similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 and it failed to pass the Senate when parliament was prorogued for the 2013 election. The bill was re-introduced in 2014 as a private member’s bill but Brandis had been very slow to act on what the EFA termed "this important issue".