Thursday, 26 March 2015
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee
The government does not support these amendments. Section 102A makes it an offence for a person to use or disclose information about a journalist information warrant. The offence is punishable by two years imprisonment. Pursuant to section 5.6 of the Criminal Code, this offence will be committed where a person uses or discloses information and is reckless as to whether that information is about a journalist information warrant. Amendment (10) would make disclosure an offence only where the person who discloses the warrant knows that the information is about a journalist information warrant relating to an ongoing matter. The offence provisions serve the dual purpose of ensuring the security and integrity of investigations are maintained against unlawful disclosure and protecting the reputation and privacy of subjects of investigations.
Prohibitions on use and disclosure exist so that any private information, even the mere fact that a person has come to the police's attention, is not incidentally used to embarrass, humiliate or harass the person. Given the sensitive nature of TIA Act powers, for those prohibitions to be meaningful they must be backed up by criminal penalties. The media cannot have it both ways. They have sought protections relating to the identification of their sources, yet they are looking to be able to disclose the information about the target of the warrant—that is, the source. The offence provision is consistent with those already in place in relation to other warrants, including telecommunications interception warrants and stored communications warrants. These offences exist in both Commonwealth and state legislation, including relating to surveillance device warrants. They create a need to know within an agency to protect the privacy of the person who is the subject of the warrant.