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Proposed reform to Australia’s electronic surveillance framework

The Department of Home Affairs has prepared a discussion paper outlining the plan to modernise and streamline Australia’s electronic surveillance legislative framework by 2023.

The discussion paper addresses the need to consolidate existing legislation into a new system. Currently, electronic surveillance legislation includes the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth), Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth), and parts of the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth) and Commonwealth and state laws. These laws are currently complex, mismanaged, and outdated. The legislation fails to seamlessly work together to address the needs of electronic surveillance. This creates issues of national security, privacy, information handling, and the effectiveness of government agencies.

Accordingly, the Department of Home Affairs is seeking public opinion on 37 key questions. These questions are separated into the following core parts:

  1. Who can access information under a new electronic surveillance framework?
  2. What information can be accessed?
  3. How can information be accessed?
  4. When will information be accessed?
  5. Necessary safeguards and oversights
  6. Industry and government cooperation, and
  7. Interactions with existing and recent legislation and policy review.

Reforming these laws will be the biggest change to Australia’s national security legislation in 40 years. This framework is designed to address shifts in modern technology, societal values, and liberal democracy. Over the next 2 years, the Department of Home Affairs will work closely with stakeholders and public bodies to develop a framework that is appropriate to modern electronic surveillance standards.

Submissions made by made until 11 February 2022.

For the full reading of the report, see here.

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