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Thursday, 27 May 1999
Page: 5667


Senator ALSTON (Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (10:14 PM) —I must say you puzzle me greatly. You seem to think that a carrier is incapable of dialling up a service or reading an advertisement in the newspaper and that, by definition, if a carrier listens to what is played on a publicly available line—one that is promoted—somehow it is eavesdropping but it is merely accessing the service if a citizen does it. It is just a nonsense proposition.

Interception of private lines between two persons is a different proposition. The carrier does not need to listen in to an actual conversation to ascertain whether the type of service provided is counselling or otherwise. It simply dials up the service and it may not need to say who it is. It might be a recorded service. If it is a recorded service, then the material will speak for itself.

I think it is a pretty fail-safe test to merely look at the way in which the thing is advertised or promoted in the first place. You will not get much business passing yourself off as a counselling service if you are really in the sex lines business. There is no question here of interception or tapping or some sort of Big Brother intervention; it is simply a matter of an operator or a service provider having a number and making a service available, and the carrier, like any other member of the public, being able to access it and assess the quality of the material and the way in which it is promoted. You can do that as well as the carrier. Are you tapping it because you ring up that number? Of course you are not. Why should the carrier be regarded as intercepting by simply ringing up that number?