The Government has purposefully stifled debate on its controversial plan to record the web browsing history of every Australian Internet user by greatly censoring its consultation paper.
The move came in response to a Sydney Morning Herald Freedom of Information (FoI) request to see the Government’s consultation papers on the issue. The 16-page document was returned with the vast majority of the contents blacked out.
The documents concerned were provided to a select group of ISPs and industry bodies. They outline the Government's intentions on the issue and understanding of the data retention issue while proposing what information to retain and for how long.
In a written response to the SMH, a legal officer from office of the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, claimed while the public deserved to influence the processes of government these documents would not be in the public’s interest.
“I consider that release of such documents may lead to premature unneccesary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making,” legal officer, Claudia Hernandez, wrote to the SMH.
“The material is exempt [from release] because, in my view, its release would disclose recommendations, deliberations and consultations that have been made…in the course of, and for the purposes of, the deliberative processes of this Department and the government as a whole.”
According to Australian Greens Communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, the Government was just playing semantics. He said a Senate Committee would look into the issue when Parliament resumed.
“This excuse is extraordinary,” he said in a statement.
Why is the Department making such an effort to keep this information hidden?
“Instead of playing semantics the Government should allow an open discussion in the development of the best possible policy regime.”
iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, said the documents in no way endangered national security and that the documents should be released to the public. While iiNet was provided with an original copy of the paper, it could not release it citing non-disclosure arrangements.
“I’m very disappointed in that response,” he said. “That the industry was invited to learn about this information and provided with the briefing at the exclusion of the rest of the community is not right.
“I would suggest that it’s in everybody’s interest that they release the information provided to the small group of companies more broadly.”