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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 3943


Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (09:39): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Telecommunications Interception and Other Legislation Amendment (State Bodies) Bill 2012 makes amendments to four Commonwealth acts to facilitate telecommunications interception and access powers for the Victorian Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).

The bill will:

remove the Victorian Office of Police Integrity (the OPI) as an authority eligible to intercept communications;

enable the Victorian Inspectorate to receive intercepted information as part of its oversight and complaints functions;

enable the IBAC and the Victorian Inspectorate to use and communicate information for relevant purposes under the Interception Act;

enable the Victorian Public Interest Monitor (Victorian Monitor) to be provided relevant information and appear at applications for interception warrants by Victorian interception agencies; and

make amendments to the Taxation Administration Act 1953, Privacy Act 1998 and Crimes Act 1914 to replace references to the OPI with references to the IBAC.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission

Victoria will abolish the existing Office of Police Integrity and is establishing the IBAC. The IBAC will become the body responsible for overseeing the Victoria Police.

However, the IBAC will have a broader jurisdiction as it will also be responsible for investigating, exposing and suppressing corruption involving or affecting all public officials in Victoria.

The amendments contained in Schedule 1 are the first pre-condition to be met before the Attorney-General can declare the IBAC to be an interception agency for the purposes of the Interception Act.

The ability to be able to access information under the Interception Act is imperative in investigations of serious corrupt conduct.

People participating in corrupt conduct often do so using clandestine communications methods in a bid to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Accordingly, these powers are critical to ensure that the IBAC is able to access information which proves that corrupt conduct is occurring.

Other States such as New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have already established anti-corruption commissions which can access these Interception Act investigative powers. The inclusion of such a commission in Victoria increases the application of the interception and access regime nationally.

The Interception Act already strictly regulates how agencies that receive intercepted information are able to use and communicate that information - this is important in ensuring that privacy and oversight considerations are part of the interception regime. Accordingly, there are detailed provisions which set out the circumstances in which interception agencies can use and communicate intercepted information.

Consequential amendments

Schedule 1 to the bill also contains consequential amendments to the Taxation Administration Act 1953, Privacy Act 1998 and Crimes Act 1914 to replace references to the OPI with references to the IBAC.

The Crimes Act currently allows a constable or Commonwealth officer to make available to OPI documents or seized things, to be used by OPI for specific purposes, including preventing, investigating or prosecuting an offence against a Victorian law. The bill will remove the reference to the OPI and provide the IBAC with access to such documents or seized things, for the same specific purposes.

The amendments to the Taxation Administration Act will allow the Australian Taxation Office to disclose taxpayer protected information to the Vic IBAC for law enforcement purposes, including investigating serious offences and enforcing the law.

The amendments to the Privacy Act will include the Vic IBAC within the definition of 'enforcement body' which is used in the National Privacy Principles in relation to the law enforcement exemptions to the use and disclosure, and access and correction obligations.

Victorian Inspectorate

To oversee the functioning of the IBAC, Victoria has established the Victorian Inspectorate.

Schedule 2 to the bill makes amendments to the Interception Act to ensure that the Victorian Inspectorate is able to receive and use intercepted information in support of its oversight and complaints handling functions. Victorian Public Interest Monitor

The bill also makes amendments to support the establishment of a Public Interest Monitor in Victoria (Victorian PIM).

This body has been established to represent public interest during applications for a range of covert warrants by Victorian agencies.

This is not the first time that the Commonwealth has recognised the role of a public interest monitor. The Queensland monitor currently has an oversight role for control orders under the Criminal Code and in applications for interception warrants by Queensland interception agencies.

Schedule 3 of the bill will enable the Victorian Monitor to receive information about an application for an interception or surveillance warrant by a Victorian agency so that the Victorian monitor may:

i. appear at an application before a person who is eligible to issue a warrant

ii. make submissions and ask questions, and

iii. require the person issuing a warrant to take the submissions of the PIM into account when considering the application.

Conclusion

This bill is an important step in ensuring that the state body responsible for detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious criminal activity is able to access investigative tools imperative to support their functions.

This bill balances access to communications with appropriate record keeping and independent oversight to ensure the ongoing protection of privacy for individuals. Accordingly, I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.