$131 million for companies’ metadata retention in budget boost to counter terrorism

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said metadata is essential to most counter-terrorism investigations. AAP/Mick Tsikas

The government will provide telecommunications companies with A$131 million in the budget to help with the costs of retaining metadata, as part of further measures to strengthen intelligence capabilities and counter extremist messaging.

The total cost of the new measures is $450 million, which is on top of the $630 million announced last year and included in the mid-year budget update.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “To help combat terrorism at home and deter Australians from committing terrorist acts abroad, we need to ensure our security agencies are resourced properly and have the powers to respond to evolving threats and technological change.”

Of the $450 million, $296 million would go to strengthening the capabilities of the intelligence agencies, including updating information technology systems.

“Metadata is essential to most counter-terrorism investigations and for detecting and prosecuting other serious crimes,” Abbott said.

The Parliament has passed legislation forcing companies to retain metadata for two years. The companies said this will bring substantial extra costs, variously estimated, and have pressed the government to bear as much as possible of these.

The $131 million would assist the telecommunications industry to upgrade its systems to implement this policy, Abbott said.

The package will include $22 million to combat terrorist propaganda and counter violent extremism.

“To deter terrorism we need to challenge the recruitment methods used by extremist organisations, particularly online.

"This measure will challenge terrorist organisations’ lies and propaganda online,” Abbott said.

“This will make it harder for terrorist groups to attract vulnerable Australians, particularly young Australians, through the internet and social media.”