A Tale of Three Bills: in public and in private

The UK and Australia have both referred the controversial surveillance reforms to Parliamentary Joint Committees to take evidence and then recommend changes to the reforms and that’s powering on nicely, with six public hearings (transcripts here) so far from the British Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill and two public hearings so far from the Australian Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (transcripts here). They’ve both heard from a range of interest groups, academics, government agencies and watchdogs, industry figures and, of course, received many submissions from the public themselves. But they’ve been doing their work in public, in the full glare of the media.

We heard today that the Canadian Conservatives are looking to find ways of redrafting the bill to allay concerns. If they are, they’re not doing so in public. The bill has not (as the government proposed) been sent to committee before second reading, a rough equivalent to the proceedings in the UK and Australia. So will the government, either in the Prime Minister’s Office or Public Safety Canada, take it upon themselves to redraft the bill without parliamentary input? If so, that would be a damn shame.

On another note, one of the key differences at the moment between proceedings in Australia on the one hand and Canada and the UK on the other is that Australia has no draft legislation at this point, only a discussion paper. Apparently, according to Macquarie Telecoms, a bill will be published in due course after further negotiations with CSPs. It’s simply unfortunate that this may not be in time for the committee to consider them, because that leaves the Australian committee at a disadvantage with having to scrutinise proposals without the specifics in front of them.

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