Laurie Patton. Utopia: the professor, the public service, and the need for change.

In an article in The Mandarin former Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Professor Peter Shergold, is quoted urging public servants to adapt and to show courage.

http://www.themandarin.com.au/60090-adapt-die-peter-shergold-manifesto-public-service-transformation

Shergold is spot on. But before things can change we need to be willing to accept that mistakes are made, even by the best of people.

Last week it was revealed that the team responsible for the Data Retention Act received a Secretary’s Award for “excellence”. To anyone familiar with this fetid exercise that must sound like a scene from the satirical television series Utopia.

As Internet Australia told a parliamentary inquiry the Act’s drafting is “fundamentally flawed” and clearly written by lawyers with insufficient knowledge of how the Internet works. The result is a flawed implementation process that has the industry up in arms. Even Telstra has demanded 18 months grace to become compliant. Imagine how the 400+ smaller ISP’s are getting on.

The data retention scheme was presented as an urgently needed weapon in the fight against terrorism. According to official timelines now being provided to the industry it will be a full two years from the date of Royal Assent before the Act is in force. And even then it is unlikely to achieve its purported purpose. When he was communications minister, Prime Minister Turnbull amply demonstrated, in the media and in private, that there are so many ways to work around this law.

If we must have data retention then surely we should aim to have legislation that might work? Legislation that doesn’t send Internet service providers broke or result in increased access fees for Internet users.

Internet Australia has called on the Government to bring forward a review due in 2018. It is time for the Attorney General’s Department to accept the true situation and recommend that this take place. That would be a good start to achieving the lofty ambitions proposed by the good professor.

Laurie Patton is CEO Internet Australia. 

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