Senate debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006

In Committee

11:04 am

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

If Senator Brown were here I am sure that he would go to the analogy of the tree falling in the forest and whether it would be heard. It is a well-argued matter. In principle I see where you are heading. There is an issue surrounding it and I think that the principle needs addressing. I do not think this quite addresses the principle, and that is the difficulty. That is why Labor have indicated that we will not support it. The rationale that the Democrats have put forward is a sensible proposition but the amendment does not, in my view, address that.

We are trying to guard against certain investigations. One of the analogies—perhaps a better one than the tree in the forest—is: if there is an ongoing investigation by the authorities into a robbery, they do not usually go and tell the robber that they are investigating him at that point. Even when the investigation is complete I am not sure whether they then sometimes go and tell the people concerned. They could spend a lot of time running around telling people what they have been doing, but I would rather they do their work. They do not have a duty in that respect; they have a duty to investigate crime where they find it and to gain evidence and prosecute crime. That is the main role that they are supposed to have.

The problem with the amendment is that it does create quite a complex regime that someone would have to wend their way through. But I do not particularly want to argue against your amendment. I indicated that I was not going to support it. I can see where you are heading in principle and I agree with the principle, but I am not going to provide ammunition for the government to argue against your proposition. The underlying principle that governments struggle with is how they ensure that people’s privacy is protected in such a way that no harm should come of it.

In fact, if you look at later amendments by Labor where we seek to strengthen the way information is held by agencies and the way it is then protected and destroyed when it is no longer required, that is really the other side of the coin in this debate. For a person who has been subject to a stored communications warrant, if the information is subsequently destroyed or held appropriately in an agency then there is a position which ensures that that information cannot harm someone. In any event, I do not want to take up too much time on this part of the debate.

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