In a significant admission, the Attorney-General’s Department has corrected its evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to reveal two provisions for a data retention régime were drafted at the Department’s request.

As Crikey reported in May, Greens senator Scott Ludlam asked the Department at Estimates to provide details of its consultation with industry on data retention and its drafting of legislation for it. The department at the time sought to play down its commitment to data retention, saying its industry consultations were simply informal discussions and that it had not prepared any legislation. The responses appeared to border on the misleading given what we already knew about the Department’s efforts on data retention.

This impression was confirmed this afternoon when the Department wrote to the Committee to correct the record on its answers.

“In an exchange with Senator Ludlam in relation to the existence of a draft Bill that included data retention provisions, Ms Smith [Assistant Secretary Catherine Smith] stated that there were some very vague draft provisions, but not to do with data retention.

“The Department would like to clarify that Ms Smith was referring to the fact that there was no draft Bill on data retention. However, there were two draft provisions on data retention, but they did not detail a comprehensive data retention regime.”

Since those hearings, Crikey has sought access to Departmental documentation on data retention via Freedom of Information of laws.

On 24 June, the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released its report on data retention and other proposals to amend or extend law enforcement and intelligence agency powers. The report declined to recommend data retention, and severely criticised the Attorney-General’s Department for failing to provide appropriate information to the committee.

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