10 Oct 2015

Australian PM defends private emails

2:52 pm on 10 October 2015

The office of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his use of a private email server for government business.

A spokesperson for Mr Turnbull spokesman said many officials used private systems for their convenience and functionality.

The The Australian newspaper earlier revealed that the prime minister was communicating with colleagues and journalists via a private email server, which prompted concerns over the security and ethics of the practice.

New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull Photo: AFP

It echoes controversy in the United States over the Democratic Party's presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, using a private email server to conduct government business, including classified emails.

Some experts suggest a private email server could be more vulnerable to hacking than the federal parliament's secure system.

It has also raised suspicions over whether using a private system could end up subverting freedom of information laws.

But in a statement, Mr Turnbull's spokesperson said all communications relating to government business - with exemptions - were potentially subject to freedom of information laws, regardless of where they were stored.

The spokesperson said many MPs and ministers used private messaging systems for "non-sensitive material for reasons of convenience and superior functionality".

"The majority of government correspondence is routine and of a non-sensitive nature and is therefore not subject to sensitive security markings," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the private email server used by Mr Turnbull was located in Australia.

While he was a minister, Mr Turnbull said he used the "Wickr" messaging app for its security features. Wickr says its messages are encrypted and self-destruct so they cannot be traced.

In her former role as the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton faced heavy criticism over her use of a private email server to conduct government business, including sending classified emails.

-BBC

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