Data retention and journalists' sources

UNSW Canberra Academics Involved: 
Professor Clinton Fernandes

Academic research is never more engaging than when it is conducted hand-in-hand with those who most value its results. As if to prove this point, during his recent work, Professor Clinton Fernandes liaised directly with federal politicians to assist Parliament in enacting three major pieces of national security legislation.

One of those was the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act.

“I liaised with Senator Nick Xenophon and contributed to several privacy protections,” Fernandes, who has written four books, 25 book chapters and over 15 journal articles, says.

“The most significant innovations were the creation of a category of ‘journalist information warrant’, which is a requirement that police obtain a warrant before they obtain a journalist’s metadata for the purpose of identifying a source or sources, and a Public Interest Advocate, appointed by the Prime Minister, to make submissions to the warrant issuing authority that a journalist information warrant should not be issued because the public interest would be harmed.”

These journalist information warrants are uniquely Australian innovations. They were developed after Fernandes delivered a detailed presentation to Press Gallery journalists and invited federal parliamentarians, on the topic of ‘Mass Surveillance, Metadata and Journalist-Source Confidentiality’. He worked with Senators Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjelm and Scott Ludlam, creating greater awareness of the nature of the legislative problem.