back to article Australia's metadata debate is an utter shambles

As much as anything, Australians should fear the government's metadata retention proposals because it's becoming increasingly clear that our politicians have no idea what they're proposing. Within a single day of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, taking to the microphone with attorney-general George Brandis and foreign minister …

  1. John Tserkezis

    "it's becoming increasingly clear that our politicians have no idea what they're proposing."

    You mean there was a time when they did know what they were proposing?? News to me.

    1. Cynical Observer

      "it's becoming increasingly clear that our politicians have no idea what they're proposing."

      Or... they are counting on the fact that they can blag their way through this, knowing full well exactly what it is that they are proposing. Using a fine balance of ignorance and apathy, they get acceptance from a percentage of the electorate. The remainder they will seek to discount in some way.

      Sometimes feels that it's happening in a lot of other countries as well.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Giving them too much credit

        I think you credit them with too much intelligence. They are being pushed by a powerful bunch of bueauro who have an absolute need to extert as much control as possible, and in fairness - if we had their jobs and mandate - we may lean the same way. What is very cynical and unacceptable - is those agencies attempts to criminalise some of the needed checks and balances that would prevent these organisations turning into the bastard cross of Big Brother and the Stasi.

        The problem with the whole debate its become polarised and simplified, and because its a relatively easy ask and it seems like a trivial freedom to give up - most (genuinely) ignorant people don't see a problem with it.

        The reality is that the average person in the street cant even conceive how much detail they are giving to Facebook every day - let alone what a government that became hostile to the majority of its citizens could do.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The availability of all this data, to know exactly what the public is thinking and dreaming, who are your political opponents and friends - this would have been Adolf Hitler's wet dream. Imagine all this data in his hands and what he would/could have done with it to manipulate public opinion.

  2. Persona non grata

    Tony Abbott should listen to himself

    “I have no doubt that the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this, but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe. That's my responsibility,"

    If that's so he should resign post-haste, he is, without exaggeration, the single biggest threat to Australian's safety and future well-being. He should take Brandis and Pine with him. These are extremist dogmatics who should never hold positions of power and lack even the intellect to see their own failings. Sadly they're so far on the downside of the Dunning-Kruger effect they're mistaken about their adequacy to super-human levels.

    We're screwed...

    1. RealFred

      Re: Tony Abbott should listen to himself

      Please include the whole quote

      "I have no doubt that the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this, but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe. That's my responsibility, and all the expert advice from every single counter-terrorist agency is that this information is absolutely essential if we are to maintain our vigilance against terrorist activity"

      And the civil libertarian group should do all they can to stop this, along with our support. The government is still trying to get this shit made into law, even though 2 successive governments have tried and failed and a third one is trying. I was listening to the radio the other day and the general comment was "if you're doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear", and thats from the public. You're right, we are screwed but the rest of the population will take us down with them. The politicians won't do it on their own.

  3. Denarius Silver badge

    maybe not a shambles

    I suggest some of the secret police TLAs have something embarrassing on assorted pollies. <tin hat > I wonder if the pollies are not driving this, they are being driven. Further, I cynically wonder if the spooks are being driven to drive the pollies. Perhaps a media baron or two has stuff on the spooks that is being used to indirectly control political processes now that the newspapers and TV are finally losing credibility.</tin hat> The Norks must be laughing. In the meantime I miss the real black helicopter that used to be hangared up the road. It was a joke then.

    It could also be that the current crop of ministers is simply incompetent. The PM would not be able to partake in a high school debate from the little I have heard of his awkward fumbling for sentences.

  4. P. Lee Silver badge


    It's data about data. There's nothing non-data about it.

    If I were an opposition party leader, I'd be rather nervous if someone from my household started browsing and the URLs requested were available to the government. It doesn't matter that they don't save the image data. is probably enough to ruin a life.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Meta-data

      I think the huge prickly prober will ruin your life anyway........

    2. Adam 1

      Re: Meta-data

      Or some dope working for a three letter agency is going to fail to understand how the internet works and therefore think you visited such a site when all you wanted was the phone number of a dentist.

    3. RealFred

      Re: Meta-data

      That sites disgusting and should be blocked. There now no-one can see it. Job done

    4. RealFred

      Re: Meta-data

      Or even worse when the metadata stored is htt:// is changed after ilovepuppies goes titsup and another image is posted that is rather different.

  5. Gray Ham

    it's becoming increasingly clear that our politicians have no idea"

    Richard, you could really have stopped writing there ... the rest of the article is somewhat superfluous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did you put the Joke Alert icon there by mistake?

  6. Thorne

    Lets be logical here

    The real reason for storing the meta data is to look for other crime, not terrorists, and by other crime I mean pirates.

    Browse The Pirate Bay and the jackboot squad will black bag you in the early hours of the morning and deliver you to secret court appointed by Rupert Murdoch for waterboarding and Gitmo style prison time (he's still working on getting the laws changed for summary executions)......

  7. poopypants

    Oh dear. With regard to civil liberties, the political choice in Australia is between Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber. It's a sad state of affairs when there is not a single political party in this country that is fit to govern. I weep for my children.

    1. Goat Jam

      While they are nowhere near perfect, I am going to give the LDP a run and see how that goes. Couldn't be any worse really.

  8. borkbork

    “I have no doubt that the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this, but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe. That's my responsibility,"

    Because of that sentence, the EFA just gained at least one new member.

  9. Alan Newbury

    Privacy still (relatively) safeguarded

    Latest from the ABC:

    "The Prime Minister's office later clarified that web-browsing history is considered content, and authorities need a warrant to access it."

    So carry on regardless with your huge-prickly-prober

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

    If ever proof was needed.

    He only needs to open his mouth.

    As a previous (and fellow Tory) PM said; "Tony Abbott is a dangerous politician",5267

    And this from a politician who was successful at getting a Labor Government dismissed!

    1. RealFred

      Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

      But who was caught without his pants, in public, so he's no great judge of a persons character

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

        Fair comment, had forgotten that.

        I still think Malcolm sans-dacks is a better bet than Stunt Boy.

      2. Goat Jam

        Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

        Another great Fraser moment I seem to recall*:

        The scene is Fraser doing the school kid thing, kids are lined up on the soccer field and the PM is walking down the line shaking hands and generally trying to milk the kids of that magic TV news soundbite when the following exchange took place:

        Fraser: So little lady, what are you going to do when you finish school?

        Schoolgirl: Why, what have you got in mind?

        * May not be true, my memory fades, but funny anyway

    2. Anthony 13

      Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

      "Within a single day of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, taking to the microphone ..."

      Let's face it, you can finish this sentence in any fanciful way you like and it wouldn't be surprising...

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

        explained his plan to attack the youth unemployment issue on regional centres by funding training and apprenticeship programmes as well as university scholarships and business incentives to come on board, financed by phasing out tax concessions to superannuation income over $200000.

        (No, he didn't suggest this, but I surely proved you could be surprised by the end of that sentence)

    3. Goat Jam

      Re: Abbott is a complete and utter incompetent

      "As a previous (and fellow Tory) PM said; "Tony Abbott is a dangerous politician""

      Two things;

      Firstly, "Tories" are a UK thing. There is no such thing as an Australian "Tory" despite what that ranting buffoon Mike Carlton might say.

      Secondly, even if the term "Tory" was applicable to Aus politics Fraser is as far from being a "Tory" as you can get without being a card carrying member of the Communist Party.

      Interestingly, his government carried many of the hallmarks of the current Abbott Clown Circus. It was an ineffectual do-nothing government that was more concerned with appeasing the left than actually implementing the mandate that they received after crushing Labor *twice*.

      Of recent years Fraser has been a darling of the ABC and Fairfax who are not given to consorting with "Tories" I assure you.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh noes!

    The Terrors [TM] are back!

    We're all going to die*

    * eventually.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Clueless pollies

    ABC article:

    Liberal frontbencher Stuart Robert says he has no problem with people's web-browsing history being stored.

    "Not at all, keeping in mind Google already stores your browsing history as it is," he said.

    For once I'm lost for words.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clueless pollies

      As he is an ex special forces (and basically a spy) and having knew the guy reasonably well this does not surprise me. Great guy but is very much of the if you don't have anything to hide thought process.

      AC for obvious reasons.

  13. dan1980

    Experts . . .

    I saw that interview this morning. That's the one where he said that "all the experts agree" that we need these laws.

    ALL the experts Mr Abbott? Or just those who are already pushing for these laws - like the AFP, ASIO and various other local and international police/security/spy agencies?

    How many privacy experts have you asked? How many independent law experts? How many professors and academics? For that matter, how many tech experts?

    Hell, all the ISPs tell you it's a bad idea and are against it, but they must be pretty unreliable, especially as they don't even realise they are 'already collecting the data' anyway. Silly ISPs - thinking they know their own business better than the government.

    And I'll tell you the expert you most definitely neglected to ask: me.

    What am I an expert in? I am the most eminent thinker and leading expert on "genies I am willing to let out of the bottle in order to be protected from 'terror', crime 'in general' and my neighbour dumping rubbish illegally".

    Of course, both sides of politics believe they know my mind better than I do or simply don't care.

    1. RealFred

      Re: Experts . . .

      Both sides of politics have tried this stuff before. They all need to be taken out the back and educated. You decide on the persuader.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Experts . . .

        I have some 'experts' in mind for that, too . . .

  14. Terry Cloth

    The envelope analogy

    I find it odd that no one has asked the citizenry how they'd feel if the postman put all addresses on their paper mail into a database for the government's perusal.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The envelope analogy

      Terry, good point. It might be a simple enough analogy for that rare beast, an intelligent TV news analyst to question Brandis and Abbot. Love to their faces if asked using your analogy.

    2. RealFred

      Re: The envelope analogy

      Hadn't considered that. Might suggest it to the pollies, or some Australian journalists if they can put their schooners down long enough to listen

    3. Christian Berger

      Re: The envelope analogy

      Actually there are systems which do just that. Such systems are sold today. After all cameras already scan every envelope to try to figure out where it should go.

  15. Goat Jam

    Tony Abbott is the greatest PM Australia has had since Kevin Rudd. Also the worst.

  16. Slx

    I'm a little confused.

    How do they think the ISPs can retain metadata from services that that they don't provide that are hosted by third parties, almost none of which are Australian companies.

    Most of these services are also accessed via encrypted connections.

    I'd suspect most Australians no longer use local ISP email. Gmail, Outlook/Hotmail, Yahoo etc dominate it and they could chose GMX or other European systems too.

    Not to mention Skype etc etc etc

    ISPs do not log anything like the level of information these people are talking about. They sound like they're confusing the internet with a 1980s digital telephone network!

    That or they're proposing Chinese or Iranian levels of internet censorship in which case Australia can forget about ever having much of an IT sector.

    These policies are fantastic for New Zealand though which will probably end up hosting lots of inward IT investment that might outerwise have gone to Oz.

  17. Eugene Goodrich

    Civil liberties not part of his job?

    "I have no doubt that the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this, but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe."

    Shame it's not his responsibility to safeguard the citizens' civil liberties. It would be quite handy for the citizens to have someone in elected office sticking up for them like that.

  18. Zog_but_not_the_first

    No further explanation or justification needed...

    ...than the answer to the question, "Why does a dog lick his bollocks?"

    Because he can.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so long as the paperwork's clean.

    "I have no doubt that the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this, but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe."

    Sounds like a line from a Mel Gibson movie (MadMax springs to mind). Can't forget the scene where some unlucky souls had already decorated a few pikes. Let's hope the civil libertarians have completed that task before the holocaust gets started.

    What a tosser....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abbott versus Conroy

    I am having difficulty figuring out which is the greater moron

  21. Britt Johnston

    Aussie awakening

    The loss of privacy has arisen through a coming-together of commercial data collection and multiple government agencies looking to evaluate data for different security purposes.

    Politicians were looking the other way, I don't worry that they look inexpert, they have catching up to do. I don't even mind that a leader has a potshot at journalists, or civil libertarians, as target practice. These agencies' PRs are telling their polititians that they are under threat, need the whitewash job, and that they deserve support.

    But the sticks need sharpening for any security agencies - maybe there are none in Australia - who were using readily available techniques to help themselves beyond any reasonable scope, and now intend to stay unaccountable; the intellectual successors of F.Walsingham or the STASI, among others.

    And then what's left of both parties should be going after any entity (any company with such a business model, but also botnets, hackers, pedophiles or journalists) who collects unsuitable data, in an unsuitable way, to the detriment of others. If they get that far in Australia, I'd count that as a success worth following in other lands.

  22. dhcp pump
    Paris Hilton

    Cough Up

    IF they want/need this service why should the isp pay for it ?,the gov will have to pay .

    This requirement is like another tax if passed onto the consumers,when we pay out enough


    the ISP's have already estimated the cost which will grow each year !.

    Cough Up for the extra work and equipment required!.

    On top of this what form of security governance framework will exist to allow this ?, the costs just keep growing as each ISP will have to engage in a secrecy agreement .

    Who the $ can guarantee the security of this data when transmitted through the existing internet ?.

    This will cost a substantial amount ,have the governement budgetted for the $Billions this will cost ?

    in the current budget for the agencies ,i bet you they havent .

    They cannot even provide the roads,hospitals and education system for the people that have elected them !.

    This concept of the ISP again storing and providing the data is hogwash and is wasting too much money on this when transmission interception for overseas routes is simpler,technology is already there ,3-5 major points from AUS plus satellite feeds to be monitored.


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