Thursday, 30 March 2006
Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006
The Australian Democrats will be supporting the opposition amendment. The amendment moves that a warrant may specify that communications prior to a specified date be inaccessible or that communications from a specified person be inaccessible. We believe that this recommendation is quite sensible. It gives the issuing authority discretion to prevent agencies from having the ability to access stored communications going back too many years. In some cases, the entire correspondence of some people is stored in their e-mail accounts. I am sure that none of us here do that, but nonetheless it is a sensible amendment. It is consistent and the Democrats will be supporting it.
On the issue of the recommendations contained in the Senate committee report, Senator Ludwig has made the obvious retort, which refers to the nature of the recommendations that have been picked up by the government, not just the lack of them. I do not think that 11 recommendations are a lot to boast about, just quietly, but there is also the fact that they are not exactly the largely substantive recommendations. I want to put on the record that the committee certainly had cross-party support for those recommendations. It is a chair’s report from the government, obviously, and signed on by the Australian Labor Party. I believe that the recommendations do not go far enough, but they are certainly sensible and constructive recommendations that ameliorate some of the worst aspects of the bill and build in some strengthened protections in many cases.
I do not say this naively, but I honestly thought that the government would consider those recommendations. I honestly thought that more than 11 recommendations, and certainly some substantial ones, would be picked up. Senator Payne was the effective chair of that committee. Senators Ludwig and Kirk, and of course I, are here in the chamber and we were present for the inquiry. I suppose we are still trying to do the work of the committee in this place. I do not think that 11 recommendations are a lot to boast about when we are dealing with reasonably significant matters. On behalf of the Democrats, I say that we will be supporting this amendment.