Two ex-judges have been appointed by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as ‘public interest advocates’ to defend journalists under metadata retention laws.
Former Queensland court of appeal judge John Muir and former South Australian Supreme Court judge Kevin Duggan were appointed for five-year terms in October 2015, according to documents released by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Under controversial metadata retention laws passed by the Federal Government last year, government agencies have greater access to phone and internet records as telecommunication companies are required to retain two years of customer metadata.
To access journalists’ metadata, government agencies are required to obtain a warrant through a secret court hearing.
The legislation creates a ‘public interest advocate’ to represent the interests of journalists’ sources at this court hearing.
The laws do not require that journalists be notified that a warrant has been issued and it is an offence for journalists to disclose the existence of a warrant.