blog We don’t pretend to know what goes on in the minds of journalists who work for News Ltd, but sometimes some really quite unexpected views appear in their articles. A perfect example is this (paywalled) article by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of News Ltd newspaper The Australian backing Labor’s extremely controversial data retention scheme. If you have a subscription to the newspaper and can read the full article, we recommend you do so, as an example of conservative thinking on this issue in action. A non-paywalled paragraph:
“[The film Zero Dark Thirty’s] lengthier demonstration of the centrality of phone intercept and phone-tracking technology has surprised no one. Today we stand on the threshold of losing that ability and massively empowering terrorists and criminals as a result.”
Now, thankfully former Howard Government advisor Alan R.M. Jones was able to get an intelligent article rebutting Sheridan’s somewhat outlandish claims into the pages of the newspaper, giving some credence to the well-known quote by Arthur Miller that “a good newspaper is a nation talking to itself”, with a multitude of views being espoused. However, we have to say we’re still surprised by Sheridan’s views.
At this point it really is quite hard to find anyone across the whole spectrum of politics and industry who is in favour of the Attorney-General’s Department’s data retention scheme, apart from the department itself and some of the more hard-line law enforcement agencies. If you go outside those somewhat rarefied areas, it’s clear that the policy is broadly opposed by virtually everyone — telcos, sections of the Coalition including Malcolm Turnbull, the Greens, the Institute of Public Affairs, privacy commissioners, Electronic Frontiers Australia and, of course, the general public. Many of these groups are strange bedfellows, but they’ve found common ground when it comes to data retention. And who can blame them? There are so many disturbing aspects to this odious proposal that it’s not funny. Universal record-keeping about all Australian communications, by bureaucrats who have displayed technical ineptitude regarding their plans? No thanks.
Yeap. Almost everyone is against this one — owing to the fact that, as Victoria’s Privacy Commissioner put it so well, the initiative would impose conditions akin to “a police state”. But Sheridan thinks it’s merely a necessary update to existing law enforcement powers. Right. At least we know now where News Ltd stands on such things.