Australian Attorney-General Melts Down Trying To Define Metadata

“Well, every website has an electronic address, right?”

1. Attorney-General George Brandis had the interview from hell on Wednesday night, trying to explain the federal government’s new plan to retain all phone and internet data of its citizens.

It announced Tuesday that all Australian telecommunications companies would be required to collect all phone and internet metadata for two years, as part of its plan to fight so-called “homegrown terrorism”.

The plan was met with skepticism from the digital community, and Brandis went on Sky News’ blue-ribbon daily political show PM Agenda, hosted by David Speers.

2. But Speers did not let Brandis get away with his “letter” metaphor, specifically asking how collecting metadata was not the same as collecting someone’s “browser history”.

Throughout the eight-minute interview Brandis struggled to clarify what the government was trying to do, eventually claiming, “I don’t want to pre-empt the discussions, I think we are going down, as it were, the wrong path here.”

3. The Labor opposition quickly circulated a transcript of the interview and the full video of the meltdown found its way on to YouTube.

4. Brandis was roundly derided for his inability to explain the plan.

They say"if you haven't done anything wrong,you have nothing to fear"! #auspol #brandis George should stick to books

— #FIXtheBudgetFAIRLY! (@johndory49)

That Brandis interview was cringeworthy. How embarrassing. #lateline

— Shane Bazzi (@shanebazzi)

George Brandis tries to explain metadata to David Speers on #pmagenda #auspol

— Emperor God Goughlam (@leftocentre)

9. The government’s communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, emerged 24 hours after the interview, telling Bloomberg TV the policy was not fully worked out and that “metadata meant different things to different people.”

Stefan Postles / AAP

N.B. “Metadata” is the time, address, and duration of a user’s phone or internet history.

10. A tweet clearly explaining why metadata is important circulated again on Twitter.

Metadata for beginners ;) #30c3 #eff

— Mari0n (@pinkflawd)

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Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
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