Data retention laws pass Federal Parliament as Coalition and Labor vote together
By political correspondent Emma Griffiths
Updated about an hour ago
Contentious data retention laws have passed Federal Parliament, with both major parties voting for the legislation in the Senate.
What is metadata?
What is metadata and how might it impact whistleblowers in media and politics?
The laws will force telecommunications providers to keep records of phone and internet use for two years and allow security agencies to access the records.
Companies already retain the data but for varying durations and in an unregulated environment.
The Coalition and Labor have argued the laws were necessary to help authorities in counter-terrorism and serious crime investigations.
Both major parties knocked back several amendments put forward by the Greens and concerned crossbenchers during Senate deliberations.
Labor announced last week that it would vote with the Coalition after the two parties agreed to several amendments, including specific protections for the phone and internet records of journalists, in a bid to protect anonymous sources and whistleblowers.
VIDEO: Greens senator Scott Ludlam tells the ALP and the Government "you will be judged for this" during the final metadata debate.
The Greens argued strongly against the law, saying it would entrench "passive, mass surveillance".
Senators Nick Xenophon and David Leyonhjelm had also sought to change the legislation to increase privacy protections.
But Attorney-General George Brandis said the legislation, which passed with 43 votes to 16, would strike the right balance.
"It does contain safeguards that were not there before, it is in the Government's view, shared I'm pleased to say by the Opposition, a measured and proportionate response," he said.
The cost of retaining the information is set to be partly covered by the taxpayer in what the Government described as a "significant" contribution.
There are concerns telecommunications companies will pass on the rest of the cost to consumers.
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014
Introduced to Parliament on October 30 and redrafted on the advice of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (which tabled its report on February 27). The legislation will:
Require telecommunications companies to retain customer's phone and computer metadata for 2 years
Define which types of data must be retained, such as phone numbers, length of phone calls, email addresses and the time a message was sent, but not the content of phone calls or emails and explicitly exclude internet browsing
Detail which agencies are able to access the data
Give security agencies access to the data when they can make a case that it is "reasonably necessary" to an investigation
Still require security agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing the actual content of messages or conversations
Introduce an independent oversight mechanism, allowing the Commonwealth Ombudsman access to agency records, in a bid to boost privacy protections
Give the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security oversight of the use of metadata by the AFP and ASIO
The Government is negotiating with telcos about who will pay for the new system