Action needed: What we can do to stop data retention in the next few days

So I went to three Victorian Labor Senators’ offices and my local MP’s office today to talk about data retention.

I decided that instead of just ranting online, I should do something about it, however insignificant it might be in the long run.

So I drafted a nice one-page letter where I summarily talked about the problems I see with the bill that’s been introduced to Parliament: the privacy and civil rights aspect, the data security and potential breach, the lack of definition of metadata in the bill and potential for scope creep, and the cost of the scheme.

Writing emails and signing online petitions doesn’t do anything. Politicians get lots of them and they get ignored all the time. They are however not used to having someone call them on the phone, or better yet, having someone enter their offices. It was very clear to me that the staff at these offices are not used to having people coming into their office to talk about issues. They were all initially taken aback, but once they got over their surprise and they realised that I was there to talk about a legitimate issue, their demeanor changed and they treated me very politely and respectfully. I might say a couple of them even enjoyed talking to another voter about a real policy issue.

In Senator Kim Carr and Senator Conroy’s offices, I briefly talked about the issue with a staff member and handed my letter to them. In Senator Gavin Marshall’s office I got to sit down and had a very interesting and insightful chat with a political advisor. He told me that the ALP hasn’t yet made a stance on the issue, but in real politics, it’s going to be very hard to make the argument against these “national security” bills. I can more than understand that argument, but the point that I made was that there are those of us who care about this issue, and even though we might not be as loud as the Herald Sun, we do exist and we vote.

Likewise at my local MP Tim Watts’ office I sat down with a staff member who took the time to listen to me and took notes.

In every case, I can say that being there in person made a huge difference. It made them realise that there are actual people with a name and a face out there who care about this issue.

The Labor party currently doesn’t have a position on the bill yet. It will come up in their caucus soon and they will vote on it. Right now, the Greens, the Liberal Democrat senator and Nick Xenophon have said that they will vote against the bill. If Labor votes against it, there is a real possibility of stopping this in the Senate.

I am going to also call the offices of Jason Clare (Shadow Communications Minister) and Mark Dreyfus (Shadow A.G) These are the key people in the ALP who can sway the caucus one way or the other.

I very much hope that in the not too distant future, we have representatives from Pirate Party that can bring out voice to the main stage, but in the meantime, we have to work with what we have, and our only chance right now is that Labor decides to vote against this bill. If you care about this issue, I urge you, don’t just sit and rant online. Find the address or phone number of your local member, and especially the Labor senators from your state, and call them, or go to their office. Have a brief summary of your arguments to hand them once you’ve spoken with someone. It’s not that difficult, and it very well can make a difference.

Even if Labor ends up supporting the bill, at least my conscience is clear that I did something. In years to come, at least I can say, I tried.


Good read, OP. Hard copy letters are THE key.

This bill stands or falls depending on the decision of the ALP party room. Note Senator Ludlum’s take here.

Send letters.

After watching the awesome work of the #takedownjulienblanc campaign (if you ignore the getting Morrison to cancel his visa bit) Mel and I started brainstorming what we could learn from the campaign and what we could apply to the campaign to stop data retention.

We wanted something that everyone could do reasonably easily, that would apply significant pressure to politicians and didn’t require massive numbers of people to show up to have an impact.

Between Aryonoko’s experience of visiting Tim Watt’s offices and the media coverage from Christians picketing parliamentary offices over the treatment of refugees, we thought that actually turning up on a given day would have a good enough impact.

We drafted an outline of the event here:

The idea is that people can fill in the details of their local members and organise their own group to attend using the pad as a central info depository.

We won’t need every politician to get picketed or more than 3 people at any office to have the desired impact (although the more the merrier). One office is likely to attract a bit of media, many would create a stir.



I tweeted the Pad and started a Facebook event, let’s hope it gets some traction.

Facebook event:

We have plenty of time to pimp it.