Senate debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006

In Committee

10:58 am

Photo of Natasha Stott DespojaNatasha Stott Despoja (SA, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

This precisely goes to the fact that someone may be harmed. The information may leak. The protections that are in this bill—insufficient as they are—do not ensure that information will not get out. Say information does get out; say information about a person or their communications, stored or otherwise, gets out but that person does not know where that information came from. Isn’t it their right to know that they were the subject of a warrant or that their conversations and information were intercepted?

The notion that, ‘If you have been harmed but do not know about then that is okay,’ is precisely the problem that I have with this legislation. I imagine that anyone, whether a person in this chamber or a member of the public, would probably want to be notified if their conversations were subject to some form of monitoring or interception. That is logical, especially if that information is never used. If the minister’s argument is: ‘No harm can come to them. It wasn’t material to the investigation; it wasn’t needed. What’s the harm? If no harm’s been perpetrated against them and the material wasn’t damaging, why do they need to know?’ then this is where there is a line in the sand in terms of our particular views or philosophies, because I think people have a right to know.

This amendment ensures that people are notified and it does so in a way that does not prejudice the investigation. It is specifically worded in such a way that it does not apply in relation to a warrant where in the opinion of the chief officer notification would prejudice the investigation in relation to which the warrant is sought. So, when the minister talks about harm, I am not addressing the issue of harm done to people, whether it is one of those examples of discrimination or defamation or whatever it may be, because that is provided for.

But the fact that people do not know that there has been a warrant issued means that they may not know that harm has been done. Whether it is information or other things being leaked or accessed or information that is wrong, they do not know so they cannot access these remedies that are provided for in the legislation. If the government and the opposition really think that people do not need to know, then that is wrong. We are talking in many cases about retrospective notification, and the government will not even go for that. I think that this is a very damaging aspect of the debate and it worries me more that the minister thinks that harm is not done to someone if they do not know about it. What a ridiculous concept!


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