Thursday, 17 February 2022
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Corrective Services Authorities) Bill 2022; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
Today, I'm introducing the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Corrective Services Authorities) Bill 2022 to provide corrective services authorities the ability to access telecommunications data under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, otherwise know as the T(IA) Act.
Illicit mobile phones pose a serious threat within correctional facilities. They are used to organise escape attempts, threaten the safety of victims and witnesses, organise trafficking of contraband, as well as facilitate behaviour contrary to national security interests. Telecommunications data is especially vital in establishing the ownership or location of mobile phones used to commit offences within correctional facilities.
Access to telecommunications data will assist corrective services authorities to better identify, investigate and prevent illicit mobile phone related crime in correctional facilities. This will aid the detection and prosecution of criminal offences, mitigating the risk posed to national security and public order.
The bill implements the government's response to the Comprehensive review of the legal framework of the national intelligence community. The government agreed with the comprehensive review's recommendation that corrective services authorities should have the ability to access telecommunications data under the T(IA) Act, where the relevant state or territory has requested it.
It is necessary and appropriate to make these amendments ahead of the broader holistic electronic surveillance reforms recommended by the comprehensive review. Operation Ironside has already resulted in more than 350 individuals being charged who, if convicted, will spend time in correctional facilities around Australia. The ability of corrective services authorities to access telecommunications data is now vital to combat transnational, serious and organised crime, to ensure the safety and security of both the correctional environment and the wider community.
In anticipation of these reforms, the New South Wales government has requested that Corrective Services NSW be given immediate access to telecommunications data. Following extensive preparatory work, including development of policies and procedures and review of its privacy settings, and consultation with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner, the Commonwealth government has determined it is in the national interest for Corrective Services NSW to be able to access telecommunications data ahead of the passage of this bill.
Accordingly, a temporary declaration under section 176A of the T(IA) Act has been made giving Corrective Services NSW access to telecommunications data ahead of parliamentary consideration of this bill. That declaration is subject to parliamentary scrutiny and disallowance, and can only be in force for 40 sitting days. This recognises the temporary nature of that declaration, and why this bill is being introduced today to provide access to this valuable data on an ongoing basis.
Overview of Bill
The bill provides that state and territory corrective services authorities are enforcement agencies for the purposes of access to telecommunications data once individually declared by the minister. The declaration can only be made if requested by the relevant state or territory corrective services minister.
This will ensure only those states and territories which want this power will be able to use it and also that the Commonwealth minister can ensure corrective services authorities can only access data once they have demonstrated their readiness to do so. This could include the Commonwealth minister having regard to the authority's privacy arrangements, the policies and procedures it has in place to govern access to data and the arrangements for the Commonwealth Ombudsman to conduct oversight, including any financial implications.
To assist in this consideration, the bill makes it clear the Commonwealth minister is able to consult such persons as the minister sees fit, such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Privacy Commissioner.
The existing declaration power in the T(IA) Act is temporary and declarations expire after 40 sitting days. It is designed to be used while substantive legislative change is considered by the parliament.
In contrast, the new declaration power is not temporary in nature but a mechanism to ensure legislative change is not required each time a new state or territory corrective services authority requests the power and is ready to use it.
Declarations for corrective services authorities may be subject to conditions. For example, a declaration could provide that a corrective services authority is not able to apply for journalist information warrants.
Corrective services authorities declared under the new powers will be subject to the same level of oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman as existing enforcement agencies. Further, a declaration must be revoked by the Commonwealth minister if the relevant state or territory minister of a corrective services authority requests the Commonwealth minister to do so. The Commonwealth minister may also revoke a declaration if satisfied that compliance by the authority with the T(IA) Act has been unsatisfactory.
This provides accountability and oversight to ensure authorities access and use telecommunications data in an appropriate manner.
This bill will provide corrective services authorities access to telecommunications data which is vital to ensuring the safety and security of both the correctional environment and the community.
It reflects the government's commitment to keeping Australians safe and secure.
I commend this bill to the chamber.