"Lack of availability of relevant telecommunications data has the potential to seriously impede the ability to investigate and to prosecute serious offences," the solicitor to the Commission, Roy Waldon, wrote in the ICAC's submission to a parliamentary inquiry.
The ICAC's submission followed similar public support for the Government's scheme from police and intelligence agencies.
The Coalition has said it wants telcos to be forced to keep data about their customers' phone and internet activity — known as metadata — and store it for two years.
Metadata 'whatever Government defines it to be'But the lack of detail in the legislation is causing concern, even from those who support the idea.
- For web browsing, "content" is anything user generated, e.g.: typing in a URL, clicking through to links or a Google search.
- "Metadata" is information the system automatically puts in around the user-generated content, e.g.: IP addresses, number of visits to a site and length of time on a page.
- An IP address viewed in the metadata would show a person visited a certain website, but would not show what specific pages they visited there, if they wrote anything there or viewed videos.
- Currently, authorities can request access to metadata from telcos/ISPs, but they require a warrant for access to "content".
Read the full explanation
Professor George Williams from the Centre for Public Law at the University of New South Wales described the bill as "little more than a shell for such a scheme".
For example, the legislation does not set out exactly what metadata is.
"If you look at the bill, it simply says metadata is whatever the Government defines it to be by way of regulation," Professor Williams said.
"So we don't even have that starting point."
He said he supported setting up a data retention scheme, rather than the current system, which he described as "ad-hoc".
"But my main concern with the Government's proposal is we don't actually have any detail on what that new regime would look like," he said.
"It doesn't give us clarity on who can access metadata and it will also enable whoever can access that metadata to do so on a self-serve basis."
But the ICAC argued the lack of detail in the legislation was precisely what was needed.
"The Commission supports these provisions," its submission to the parliamentary inquiry said.
"The use of regulations will ensure flexibility in adapting to technological change."
Police frequently use metadata in investigationsThe question of what police, intelligence and anti-corruption bodies could access was not the only aspect of the laws that caused concern.
How often they could access the data — and how easy it would be — has also been questioned.
Professor Williams said the bar needed to be set higher and suggested authorities be required to get a warrant first.
"This is highly private information for many people, it can reveal many intimate details of their lives," he said.
"I don't think it's acceptable that this sort of information can be accessed by authorities without some independent figure, such as a retired judge or even the Attorney-General, clarifying that it's OK.
"At the moment we have a scheme that it can be accessed on a self-serve basis without ministerial accountability, without giving full weight to the private information that can be accessed."
Submissions from state police forces to the inquiry showed metadata was frequently used in investigations.
Victoria Police made 63,000 requests for information from telecommunications companies in 2013/14 alone.
"You've got to ask whether the volume of access is because we don't have a warrant regime," Professor Williams said.
"Perhaps one of the issues here is when there's a laissez faire regime, where the agencies themselves are able to determine when they want the data, then that gives rise to greater calls upon the data than might be justified."
Submissions from the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Crime Commission have been kept confidential by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
But the committee is scheduled to hold public hearings into the legislation next week.
The Federal Government hopes the bill — the third stage of its efforts to bolster national security legislation — will be passed by Parliament early this year.
abc.net.au 21 January 2015
The Australian government is literally the most corrupt organisation in Australia, therefore ANY so called laws that are brought in WILL NOT stop government corruption.