Exclusive interview: Malcolm Turnbull quizzes Malcolm Turnbull

Vulture South defrosts Turnbull 2012 to see if his opposition positions have kept well

Malcolm Turnbull

In what we believe to be a world first, The Register has secured the services Australia's shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, circa 2012, to interview himself as the nation's current government communications minister now, in 2015. Over to you, Malcolms ...

Turnbull 2012: You've expressed “grave misgivings” over attorney-general Nicola Roxon's proposed data retention legislation. Isn't that just a legitimate government response to the difficulties faced by law enforcement?

Turnbull 2015: Labor's data retention proposal was just another effort by the Gillard Government to restrain freedom of speech.

We should be seeking to restore as far as possible the individual’s right not simply to their privacy but to having the right to delete that which they have created in the same way as can be done in the analogue world.

Turnbull 2012: Since, as you now say, over-the-top applications can hide your metadata, surely the risk to privacy is relatively small?

Turnbull 2015: I think it's instructive to look at the intelligence and security committee's response in 2012. While I wasn't involved in that committee, my colleagues Phillip Ruddock and George Brandis were clear in their condemnation of the lack of detail in the attorney-general's department's proposal.

Clearly you cannot dismiss the privacy threat if you don't understand the detail of the regime.

Turnbull 2012: So you agree with the work of that committee that “a mandatory data retention regime raises fundamental privacy issues, and is arguably a significant extension of the power of the state over the citizen”?

Turnbull 2015: Of course not. It's clear that this legislation represents the right balance between privacy and security.

Turnbull 2012: In spite of the Conrovian excesses of the 2012 report, it recommended a maximum retention period of two years. That has become a minimum retention period of two years under the scheme your government has passed. Doesn't that make your government's scheme more dangerous than the Gillard government's?

Turnbull 2015: Nothing of the sort. We're merely cleaning up Labor's mess.

Turnbull 2012: In September 2012, your colleague, attorney-general George Brandis, argued that the coercive powers some agencies are able to exercise should make government wary of granting them new powers. He told the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, I believe, “because you have more investigative powers than other agencies, in particular the power to examine under oath, then we should be less willing to cede to your agency still more powers.”

Turnbull 2015: That would be valid if, in fact, the agencies were being granted extra powers. As I have made quite clear, this bill confers no new powers on ASIO or any other agency. The bill simply ensures that data will continue to be available to agencies.

Turnbull 2012: In October 2012, you said that the government's command-and-control approach to the Internet imposed a huge cost on the economy. Isn't that still true?

Turnbull 2015: It is true, and that's why in May last year we removed the red tape that still shackled the telegraph network with unnecessary government regulation.

Turnbull 2012: Mr Turnbull, thank you for your time.

Turnbull 2015: My pleasure. ®

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