Senate debates

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee

4:55 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | Hansard source

I obviously have a fundamental disagreement with you about this. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission are the two principal economic regulators in this country. They keep the operation of our free market system honest and they ensure that markets operate free of abusive conduct or manipulative conduct.

I think it is a very superficial view, if I may say so, to think that the kind of market manipulation, cartel conduct or abuse of market power which it is the responsibility of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to police and to enforce the provisions of its act with a view to preventing is a trivial matter. I say this with some feeling because for several years before I came to this place this is what I did. Competition law was my field of practice, and I acted for the ACCC and against the ACCC on many occasions. I have seen in my own professional experience many, many instances of very serious market manipulation, cartel conduct and collusive behaviour at the expense of consumers, which it is absolutely in the public interest to prevent. There are criminal penalties now under the Competition and Consumer Act.

In relation to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, that is the principal corporate regulator in this country. It is our principal guardian against white-collar crime and commercial fraud within the corporate sector. The thought that either the ACCC or, even more so, ASIC do not have a very important law enforcement, including criminal law enforcement, role is quite wrong. An article by Mr Greg Tanzer in this morning's Australian Financial Review has been drawn to my attention. Mr Tanzer, as you may know, is a commissioner of ASIC, who argues very strongly for the retention of urgency within the list of relevant criminal law enforcement bodies. Mr Tanzer says, among other things:

… in the two years to November 2014 ASIC used telecoms data in more than 80 per cent of our insider trading cases.

He goes on to say that the powers sought here are no different in kind than existing powers under the TIA Act already. Mr Tanzer writes:

Changes to the TIA Act do not give law enforcement agencies any new powers but aim to ensure crucial existing powers retain their utility and are not eroded because of profit-driven changes in commercial practices.

Telecoms data is crucial in combating corporate crime.

I know you take a libertarian point of view and I know that is one of the points of difference between you and perhaps the Greens senators. May I say, through you, Madam Temporary Chairman O'Neill, to the Greens senators: the Greens senators have always been at the absolute forefront in their outrage at corporate crime and white-collar crime in this country. I can understand Senator Leyonhjelm's libertarian, anarcho-capitalist point of view, which I do not share but I understand, but I cannot for the life of me understand why the Greens would wish to disable the investigative capability of the agency charged with policing against white-collar crime from having a power akin to police forces and anti-corruption bodies which it has at the moment but would not have if this amendment were to be carried.


No comments