Turnbull defends private email server

Following the revelations of Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in March this year, IDM contact a number of Australian and New Zealand government ministers to ask if they had similar habits. Many confirmed their strict use of government email services for official government business. Significantly, in light of revelations this week, then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was one who failed to respond.

The ABC reports that Malcolm Turnbull's office has confirmed he has continued using a non-government email service since deposing Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A spokesperson has defended the practice claiming "Many MPs and Ministers use private messaging systems — including SMS, WhatsApp, Wickr, etc and private emails etc — for non-sensitive material for reasons of convenience and superior functionality," the spokesman said.

"All communications or records of a minister which relate to his or her duties are [subject to many exemptions] potentially subject to Freedom of Information whether it is on SMS, a private email server or a Government email server.

"The majority of Government correspondence is routine and of a non-sensitive nature and is therefore not subject to sensitive security markings."

The server is reportedly located in Australia.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a private email server used by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the subject of attempted cyberattacks originating abroad, according to congressional investigators.

Clinton’s use of a personal email addresses connected to a privately-owned server, rather than a government email, during her four years as President Barack Obama's first-term secretary of state, has been criticised as being out of step with typical government practice.

When IDM queried Australian government ministers in March, then Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann were up front in declaring they did not use personal email for government business.

These responses were echoed by representatives of New Zealand's Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee; Minister of Energy and Resources and Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges; Amy Adams, Minister of Justice; Steven Joyce, Minister for Economic Development and Paula Bennett, Minister of Local Government, Social Housing and State Services .

A high-ranking US government official familiar with the potential security risks was quoted saying Clinton’s case raises many security issues.

“There are times when the location of the secretary of state and other cabinet members is sensitive” or even classified, said the official, “especially, if they are traveling with [the president].”

A smartphone using a commercial Internet service provider would theoretically broadcast its location most of the time, over an unauthorized network, including when that location classified, the official said.

The official also noted that it’s not known whether Clinton carried her phone into areas where classified discussions took place. “If she did, that [could be] a security violation.”