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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 9096


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (20:12): It is nice to follow the member for Mitchell. I think he made a very positive contribution. He is a person who has, I understand, particularly in relation to this piece of legislation, taken the time to review it very much from the perspective of what is required for law enforcement in this country. I too rise to support the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. This bill makes the necessary amendments for us to meet the Council of the Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which is really the only binding international treaty on cybercrime. As I understand it, there are 40 nations that are signatories to this part of the convention at the moment and, as I will come to later, having more countries subscribe to this convention reduces the window of opportunity for those criminals who seek to exploit cybercrime regardless of where it occurs.

The bill will make an overall improvement to Australia's cybercrime laws consequently protecting Australia's consumers, businesses and governments but most importantly individuals and of particular importance to some of us children. Cybercrime is a significant challenge to our law enforcement agencies and particularly to our criminal justice system. As I understand it, as advised by areas of the Australian Crime Commission, cybercrime is fast becoming one of the most profitable forms of crime in the world and in fact is surpassing in many instances the global drug trade. The Australian Crime Commission conservatively estimates that serious and organised crime in this country is costing Australia somewhere between $10 billion and $15 billion a year. That cost takes in a loss to business, a loss to tax revenues, expenditure on law enforcement and regulatory efforts and also the social and community impacts that criminal activity has on our community. Due to the nature of cybercrime, it is very hard to estimate the extent to which it is occurring at the moment in this country. We know it is present, but we certainly know it is a challenge to properly assess the cost it is having to the Australian community. It is clear from matters which are already being addressed by the Australian Federal Police and other agencies, including the Australian Crime Commission, that this is a crime which is certainly having a significant impact in Australia but is not necessarily originating in this country. One of the things about cybercrime is that sometimes the victims of the crime may not even know that they have been victims of, say, credit card fraud or, if they do, they might not discover it for some time. In some areas, particularly business and financial institutions, sometimes these things go unreported because of significant commercial embarrassment.

Globally, the interconnected nature of the internet makes it very easy for sophisticated criminals to operate from abroad, especially from those countries where there are, as I said at the start of my contribution, significant windows of opportunity, whether through lax regulation or lax law enforcement arrangements, that allow them the chance to press their trade on the global internet.

The European convention, through this bill, will assist the Australian police in detecting, preventing and prosecuting cybercrime. Our police should be assisted in every way possible in respect of this crime because of the rising cost that it has, not only in the global community but also here. We know that it is developing in our own community; we are not insulated from it at all. This bill will make an amendment to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 to allow Australian law enforcement agencies to both obtain and disclose communications for the purpose of foreign investigations.

Not all that long ago, when I was overseas talking to various police jurisdictions, one of the things that was made clear to me was the fact that there needed to be a greater degree of cooperation among law enforcement agencies and, in turn, various judicial authorities in international countries to ensure that they can close down and effectively prosecute various crimes, particularly cybercrime. That is essentially the basis of the legislation before the House today. The bill will also improve Australian law enforcement agencies' efforts to effectively investigate criminal matters by improving the legal requirements for the preservation of stored communications data by particular carrier networks. At the moment, as I understand it, before a warrant can be produced some carriers can delete information and therefore ensure, unwittingly, I suppose, that any investigation goes cold before it even starts. This bill will also widen the scope of existing Commonwealth computer offences to fully meet the requirements of the international convention.

As I said, the growing force of globalisation as well as the increased development in technology are forcing countries like ours to constantly adapt their laws to ensure that they appropriately meet the current threats to individuals, businesses and the nation as a whole.

As we have heard from previous speakers, this bill is in accordance with the recommendations made by the report of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety. Those recommendations include training for our police forces on cybersafety issues. The report also recommended mandatory training for judicial officers and various judicial court staff to ensure that they are up to date with emerging technologies, particularly as they relate to cybercrime. The report confirms the serious criminal status of cybercrime and what exposure to this form of criminal activity holds for our nation. It is a simple fact that, the more our businesses and other enterprises go online, the more criminal organisations will go online. It is folly to think that criminals are just a bunch of crooks who try to make a profit by the easiest possible means, because the fact is that modern-day serious and organised crime is not conducted by a bunch of uneducated crooks but by people who use the best of technology to ply their trade. That trade can be in anything from drugs to illegal weapons to prostitution—or whatever they plan to make a profit out of. The point I am making is that we should view the way that those involved in serious and organised crime conduct their activities as being similar to the way that businesses conduct their activities. Certainly they are nefarious business activities, but people involved in serious and organised crime are businesspeople in the sense that they are in it to make a profit. In order to make a profit they are prepared to invest, and they invest very large sums in technology. They run their criminal operations internationally through cyber activity from, in effect, the safety of their own backyard, and this is increasingly occurring in this country.

I understand from the Australian Crime Commission that the big attraction of cyber based crime is that it is globally connected, borderless, largely anonymous, fast and low risk and that high levels of information—financial data, personal information and business information, much of which is tradeable—can be accessed using cyber based methods. That is precisely what modern-day cyber crime is about: maximising profits, as most businessmen try to do, with the lowest possible level of risk.

I am very fortunate to be the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, which has oversight of law enforcement—the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police. The ACC's cyber intelligence unit has recently noted the exponential growth in the use by organised crime of computer technology to further its activities. The ability of police to extract intelligence from computers, mobile phones and other types of digital devices as evidence is becoming increasingly vital to law enforcement investigations. Criminals tend to embrace technology—they are fast adapters—and this is reflected in the increased volumes of electronic data seized as evidence in law enforcement operations. One investigation by the Australian Crime Commission into a serious and organised crime group yielded 45 computers, 79 mobile phones, more than 50 SIM cards and over 100 other pieces of digital evidence. This is significant due to the fact that the group in question had traditionally been a drug syndicate and had not previously been known to focus on higher forms of technology; yet, as this investigation made clear, they had since adapted new technology to further their criminal operations.

Criminals exploit the weaknesses in our technology and legislation and, indeed, the confusion that has been created by the global reach of the internet and its rapid expansion. They use all this to facilitate traditional crimes in a new and far more targeted way, and this has devastating impacts on victims. The most serious concern involves cases where traditional crimes are adapted to the online environment. The internet, in some cases, has allowed traditional criminals to reach new victims while maintaining their anonymity and evading detection by police and law enforcement. The point I am trying to make is that if criminals are able to adapt with technology we should not expect our police and law enforcement agencies to protect our communities with both hands tied behind their backs. We need to not only give them access to the technology but to really support them to ensure that they can do their job, which is to protect our community against people like this.

Particularly when we get to talking about issues of child sex offences, I think that brings it home to all of us who are parents or, in my case, grandparents that we need to ensure that our law enforcement authorities have the most up to date and most effective weapons, including regulatory support not only to disrupt and detect but to bring down people who perpetrate that type of activity on our families and our communities. With that, I commend the bill to the House.