Senator Scott Ludlam visits PAX Aus, asks for help to kill govt data retention plans

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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.

Join the Conversation

  • aryonoco

    So I went to three Victorian Labor Senators’ offices and my local MP’s office today to talk about data retention.

    I decided that instead of just ranting online, I should do something about it, however insignificant it might be in the long run.

    So I drafted a nice one-page letter where I summarily talked about the problems I see with the bill that’s been introduced to Parliament: the privacy and civil rights aspect, the data security and potential breach, the lack of definition of metadata in the bill and potential for scope creep, and the cost of the scheme.

    Writing emails and signing online petitions doesn’t do anything. Politicians get lots of them and they get ignored all the time. They are however not used to having someone call them on the phone, or better yet, having someone enter their offices. It was very clear to me that the staff at these offices are not used to having people coming into their office to talk about issues. They were all initially taken aback, but once they got over their surprise and they realised that I was there to talk about a legitimate issue, their demeanor changed and they treated me very politely and respectfully. I might say a couple of them even enjoyed talking to another voter about a real policy issue.

    In Senator Kim Carr and Senator Conroy’s offices, I briefly talked about the issue with a staff member and handed my letter to them. In Senator Gavin Marshall’s office I got to sit down and had a very interesting and insightful chat with a political advisor. He told me that the ALP hasn’t yet made a stance on the issue, but in real politics, it’s going to be very hard to make the argument against these “national security” bills. I can more than understand that argument, but the point that I made was that there are those of us who care about this issue, and even though we might not be as loud as the Herald Sun, we do exist and we vote.

    Likewise at my local MP Tim Watts’ office I sat down with a staff member who took the time to listen to me and took notes.

    In every case, I can say that being there in person made a huge difference. It made them realise that there are actual people with a name and a face out there who care about this issue.

    The Labor party currently doesn’t have a position on the bill yet. It will come up in their caucus soon and they will vote on it. Right now, the Greens, the Liberal Democrat senator and Nick Xenophon have said that they will vote against the bill. If Labor votes against it, there is a real possibility of stopping this in the Senate.

    I am going to also call the offices of Jason Clare (Shadow Communications Minister) and Mark Dreyfus (Shadow A.G) These are the key people in the ALP who can sway the caucus one way or the other.

    I urge you, if you care about this, don’t just sit and rant online and then complain about how politicians don’t represent you. Find the address or phone number of your local member, and especially the Labor senators from your state, and call them, or go to their office. Have a brief summary of your arguments to hand them once you’ve spoken with someone. It’s not that difficult, and it very well can make a difference.

    Even if Labor ends up supporting the bill, at least my conscience is clear that I did something. In years to come, at least I can say, I tried.

  • Desley Griffiths

    We need the same groundswell as they had in the US started by Aaron Swarz

  • Daz

    No doubt about that!

  • Marlene Lear

    Well done Scott, you are a real treasure!