Malcolm Turnbull has already publicly given us some helpful tips on how to avoid having our metadata stored. It would stand to reason then, that if an ageing Australian politician is an aficionado of applications like Wickr, then criminal masterminds and international terrorist cells would most likely be privy to far more sophisticated means of avoiding detection – and just in case they weren’t Turnbull has kindly provided them with a list of several free apps they can use to encrypt their data. If you don’t believe me, just pick up any paper from late March this year or google ‘Turnbull metadata’. Besides this, ASIO already had powers to access this data on persons of interest with a simple search warrant, which begs the question: who are these new laws really targeting and why?
I’m personally tired of the phrase ‘National Security’ being used as an affront to our privacy and freedom – a convenient excuse to drive modern society ever further into the Orwellian nightmare that seems destined to become our fate. I, for one, would feel much more secure in this nation if journalists were able to better protect their sources, whistleblowers weren’t the victims of witch hunts, and justice were still administered in the open.
Recently our new Prime Minister was at the centre of a scandal for suspectedly using Wickr to host a series of secret conversations plotting to oust then PM Tony Abbott. This illustrates my point, that anyone knowingly dealing in secrets would make the necessary tweaks to avoid detection. Just look at somebody like Julian Assange and the measures he went to to retain relative anonymity. As a journalist, I am aware of the risks when dealing with sensitive information and careful to take appropriate measures, as are any high level sources. This legislation targets low level informants who aren’t privy to the same mode of thinking. Innocent disseminators of knowledge, being caught in the drag net of the governments latest fishing expedition, hoping to hook a big fish with a little one. But more generally, it is designed to intimidate and harass people who aren’t empowered with the knowledge to withstand it. It is little more than an attempt to bully the majority into silence and inaction, and stifle the freedom of the press.
At least we have Malcolm Turnbull to thank for setting the record straight – for anyone who can read at least. But my question remains: If the legislation is ineffective, unnecessary, and expensive to maintain, why aren’t we doing anything to remedy it? At best it serves no real purpose other than making our lives a little less convenient and a lot more archaic (think meeting in carparks sans cell phones aka Bernstein/Woodward and the Watergate scandal). At worst it targets the wrong guy and creates a chilling effect from the bottom up.
It’s time we all stopped just writing satire in the Sunday paper, and united as a force calling for change. Isn’t that what our union is for, after all?