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Metadata laws may impede MPs

AAP logoAAP 28/11/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

The Senate's most senior official has backed concerns about police and intelligence agencies' use of metadata laws potentially interfering with parliamentarians' work.

The Senate on Monday agreed to a new inquiry, reporting in August 2017, into the impact of a raft of new national security laws on the ability of MPs and senators to do their jobs without improper interference and whether special protocols are needed.

Senate Clerk Rosemary Laing wrote in a letter to crossbench senator Nick Xenophon, who initiated the inquiry, the expansion of intrusive powers over the past 15 years "does change the environment".

"It raises the question whether there are adequate safeguards to protect the ability of members of parliament to carry out their functions in this new landscape," she wrote.

Metadata laws force telcos to store background information - such as time and date sent and duration - in relation to emails and other electronic messages.

The use of such information by intelligence agencies could have a "chilling effect" on the provision of information to MPs, Dr Laing said.

While there were protocols in place with the federal police and some state police forces about the execution of search warrants where parliamentary privilege may be an issue, there are no such protocols covering intelligence-gathering or access to stored data, she said.

The New Zealand parliament has an agreement with the NZ Security Intelligence Service and the relevant minister.

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