Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has emerged to back the Government’s proposed new anti-terrorism laws, despite reports he has been sidelined over the proposals.
Mr Turnbull was not part of this week’s National Security Committee meeting which agreed in principle to controversial data retention plans, and reportedly first learnt of the news in a Sydney newspaper.
The former internet entrepreneur has been missing over the past few days while Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis struggled to publicly explain the technical details of proposed changes.
Senator Brandis ended up creating more confusion when he tried to clarify the use of metadata, while Mr Abbott did not help matters by indicating an internet user’s browsing history would be included under the proposal.
Labor’s shadow attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus, says Senator Brandis is out of his depth.
“This Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, is a walking disaster.” he said.
“The Prime Minister should be thinking about getting someone in the portfolio who actually understands about the issues that he is meant to be managing, perhaps someone like Malcolm Turnbull.”
Mr Turnbull is now being included in the strategy for mandatory data retention and has offered his version of metadata.
“The commentary has got ahead of the policy,” he told Bloomberg TV.
“It is not the content of the telephone call. It is details about who called whom, where and when. That material has always been retained, originally for billing purposes, but is very important potential information to accessed by security services and police services in the appropriate manner.”
The Communications Minister says he is working closely with the Attorney-General to review arrangements for mandatory data retention.
“There is a lot of speculation about what this might involve. I think this had got a little bit ahead of policy. We are in a process of consultation and engagement,” Mr Turnbull said.