Senate debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006

In Committee

10:36 am

Photo of Chris EllisonChris Ellison (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Justice and Customs) Share this | Hansard source

Firstly, the government reject any suggestion that we are in fact inconsistent in the way we have approached the Blunn report. I am advised the Blunn report did not canvass this particular issue. It did in general say there should be a balancing of privacy issues with law enforcement, but in no particular way did it mention any recommendation which would support the specificity of the opposition amendment. Indeed, it is the specificity of the opposition amendment which causes some trouble because it could qualify the very good work done by clause 116(2) of the bill. This clause addresses that balance between privacy and law enforcement. It says:

(2) The matters to which the issuing authority must have regard are:

(a) how much the privacy of any person or persons would be likely to be interfered with by accessing those stored  communications under a stored communications warrant …

It goes on to list other things that need to be taken into account, but that is the gravamen of it. Then the opposition comes in with an addition which says the warrant may specify that stored communications which were transmitted prior to a certain time and only stored communications sent to or by a certain named person may be accessed. We think that is superfluous. It is not necessary. When you have a general authority given by clause 116(2)(a), which is a very important one, we do not want to fetter in any way the issuing authority’s ability to impose conditions in relation to privacy.

The opposition’s amendment, although it says ‘without limiting subsection (2)’, then goes on to specify certain things. We think that is unnecessary, it does not add to it and it should be left at clause 116(2)(a), with that general authority given to the issuing authority, who can then determine those conditions. There are a very broad range of them. It is a very clean sheet, if you like, to consider aspects of privacy. And I will touch on that again:

(2) The matters to which the issuing authority must have regard are:

(a) how much the privacy of any person or persons would be likely to be interfered with by accessing those stored communications under a stored communications warrant …

That is a broad remit, and so it should be. A more particular reference, I think, is unnecessary and unhelpful. The government therefore opposes the opposition amendment.

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