With only 24 hours notice, the Greens Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam made an appearance at PAX Australia yesterday night. Holding a presentation and Q&A session at the Diversity Lounge, Senator Ludlam issued a call to arms and asked gamers to get involved in their campaign to stop the Abbott Government’s plans for data retention.
Ludlam says that their main goal is to pressure the 25 Labor senators to side away from the Attorney-General George Brandis. With only 12 members publicly stating their opposition – the Greens, the Liberal Democratic Party, and Senator Nick Xenophon – they need the 25 Labor members and one other member to stop the Data Retention bill from passing the Senate.
“They’re going to vote for it unless something really interesting happens,” he told the audience. “I haven’t quite worked out yet how to shift them from standing next to George Brandis in that final vote to standing next to us.”
“We need to reach those 25 Labor senators… and we need to make them more scared of us than they are getting beaten up in the Herald Sun. Because that’s kind of what it is, it is being played as a national security thing and that means you have to vote for it no matter and no matter indiscriminate it is.”
“We’ve got ideas, but my instinct is to say they are not going to be enough. We need some creative stuff, out of the box, and that’s why I came… We basically have 12 weeks.”
However, Ludlam doesn’t want the Greens to be the defacto leader of the campaign. He wants it to be a “bit anarchic and a bit bottom up” like the campaign against Labor’s proposed internet filter, where there were many people protesting but there wasn’t an actual leader telling people you have to do this or that.
“Take ownership of it, don’t wait for me to say let’s do a Facebook thing,” he said. “We have to collectively take ownership of the campaign, or else they will do us over.”
Intelligence workers don’t want data retention
At the event, an audience member – who disclosed that he had some national security knowledge and experience – told Ludlam that some of his friends working inside the intelligence services have expressed that they do not want data retention either.
“Very few of them want data retention as well, the people working in the area that this is supposed to benefit,” the audience member said. “Their concern is… the idea of destroying the thing you are trying to protect in the process of trying to protect it.”
“Their other worry is that [data retention]… throws so much information at you, that it takes incredible amounts of manpower just figure out what information is relevant. And they think it’s going to be even harder to do their job.”
The reported views from those inside is contrary to the views of the leadership of both the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, who both held a joint press conference in early August supporting and explaining why both support data retention.
“What the metadata will tell us is who owns the service, who owns the IP address they have been connecting,” AFP deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin said at the press conference. “This is not a new power for law enforcement and security agencies in this country, it’s a consolidation and an attempt to get consistency in the storage provisions for data that we already collect and that we already use.”
“Our ability to use metadata is just as important in eliminating people from suspicion as it is from incriminating them,” ASIO chief David Irvine added.
What can you do?
When asked what a person could do to help change Labor’s mind against data retention, Ludlam told them to call your local senators in your home state – especially those living in Victoria since there is a state election in November.
“They’re in the middle of a state election [campaign] now and they’re looking to neutralise any bad news,” Senator Ludlam said. “Don’t assume that when you ring up the electoral offices that you will be talking to someone hostile. It’s likely you’re talking to an overworked staffer who agrees with you and make sure you make your feelings known”
“We are encouraging people to ring those electoral offices… and it’s been working. I think it’s the reason that Labor was so wary that it didn’t immediately buy straight into it.”
“Calls to electoral offices like that are really rare. We get a lot of email and petitions and spam and stuff that is easy to ignore, but a human on the other end of the line – or better yet, a visit to an electoral office – gets noticed and then it’s passed up to head office.”
The Greens have collated a list of all the Labor senators on their website, with their emails and electoral office phone numbers.