Turnbull’s speech to the Ovum Conference

This is the transcript of a speech delivered by Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the inaugural Ovum 2020 Summit in Sydney, on refining our telecommunications framework.


Good morning and congratulations to Ovum on this, the inaugural Ovum 2020 Summit.


Ovum have put together a great program today which is focussed on the world of next generation networks, and the new generation of applications that service providers will deliver over them.


Since I have been Minister – and indeed Shadow Minister – Ovum has been one of the most influential and informed voices on the key issues in my portfolio, from the NBN to improving the delivery of eGovernment, to maximising the efficiency of mobile networks.  Analysts such as Steve Hodgkinson and David Kennedy are clear thought leaders in their respective areas.


I also want to acknowledge other key speakers and panelists here today including:


  • Tony Brown, NBN Co
  • Hakan Eriksson, CEO, Ericsson Australia & New Zealand
  • Scott Lorson, CEO, Fetch TV


The innovations and the disruptive trends that are being spoken about today are of enormous interest to me, and not just in an academic sense.  As you know I am a former chairman of one of Australia’s first ISPs and now am a shareholder minister of the NBN.  So while the debate has centred on the pits and pipes, and the speed and manner in which new infrastructure can be delivered, the crucial thing is to ensure we are maximising its use and utility.


Before I start today, I wanted to talk about the data retention measures I introduced in the House of Representatives Government yesterday.


I welcome the constructive comments from John Stanton and the Communications Alliance, recognising the importance of a data retention scheme to the work of our law enforcement agencies.  The Comms Alliance has offered to work cooperatively with Government to ensure we are able to implement a scheme that is cost effective and practical.


For our part, the Government is committed to engaging constructively with the industry to ensure we can move to a new data retention regime with the minimum amount of cost and disruption to service providers.


Firstly, while this is important legislation that needs to be dealt with in a timely fashion, we are not seeking to rush and we will wait for the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to make  recommendations on the details and structure of the new regime.


In addition, we will allow carriers and ISPs covered by the proposed law to develop an implementation plan that provides a pathway to compliance with the new scheme over a period of up to 18 months.


These plans will allow the industry and Government to work together and begin to identify and prioritise the data that is most critical to investigations, while allowing service providers significantly to reduce their costs by aligning any system changes with their internal business cycles.


Apart from the Joint Committee I have mentioned, the Government will establish a parallel working group that will include the Secretaries of the Departments of Attorney General and Communications, the Federal Police Commissioner and the Director General of ASIO, along with industry representatives, to help settle the technical aspects of the data set that is to be retained and to help refine the reasonable costs.


And finally, the Government has said we expect to make a substantial contribution both to the implementation and operational costs of any new scheme.


As I said at a joint press conference with Attorney General George Brandis yesterday, we understand that we’re asking many retail providers to store data in a way that is either not required for their business purposes today or is likely not to be required in the future.


While we haven’t settled on a quantum as yet, it is important to recognise that there is a long standing and well understood arrangement for sharing costs when law enforcement agencies make metadata requests of companies at the moment.


We acknowledge that there is a fine line on the balance between maintaining national security and privacy which is why, in additional to the safeguards already in place under the Privacy Act, we have introduced a range of measures to protect personal privacy including:


  • Limiting the number of agencies that have access to metadata
  • Expanding oversight arrangements by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Inspector General of National Security and the Privacy Commissioner
  • A requirement that the Intelligence and Security Committee to review the effectiveness of the scheme no more than 3 years after the end of its implementation phase, and a requirement that the Attorney-General’s Department reports annually on the operation of the scheme.


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