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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7623


Senator HARRIS (9:21 PM) —I wish to follow up on the minister's response concerning the documents that are used to establish a warrant and the fact that they are not available at any time to the person who is the subject of that warrant. I wish to quote from the October 2002 issue of the Public Sector Informant. The cover story is by Veronica Burgess and the heading is, `Secret Business—ASIO Intelligence Game'. I think the subheading encapsulates the concerns of the Australian people. The article states:

Discretion and intrusion go hand-in-hand in an organisation which can and does poke its nose into secret corners of people's lives.

The article goes on to say:

ASIO is allowed to and does poke its nose into secret corners of people's lives. With the approval of the Attorney-General, it can do some pretty intrusive things, including: tracking your movements, tapping your phone or computer, sticking a microphone or a micro-camera in your bedroom wall, checking your post or taking a look around your house—but not willy-nilly. There are still strict regulations about what it is allowed to do, why, and for how long. ASIO also collects foreign intelligence within Australia at the request of the Minister for Foreign Affairs or Defence.

I come back to the original proposal—that is, the information that is used to establish the application for a warrant is in no way available to the person who is the subject of the warrant. Proposed section 34D(5)(a)(i), which deals with warrants for questioning, refers to giving information `that is or may be relevant to intelligence that is important in relation to a terrorist offence'. So an order for questioning can be placed on somebody for no other reason than that they `may' happen to have information. It does not have to be relevant. The only requirement is that it `may' be relevant. What an intrusion that is into the lives of average Australians.

Under this legislation, a person who owns a property in which a person may have resided—a person whom the government suspects has been involved in some terrorist activity—could find that he is the subject of an order and be taken in for questioning just because the information he has `may' be relevant. He does not even have the right to know the basis of the claim. That is the reason why I believe we should be looking at this section of the legislation relating to the prescribed authority and the issuing authority. It is extremely important that the prescribed authority ensures that the person being questioned has certain rights maintained. Sometimes we become so engrossed in the technicalities of legislation before this chamber that we do not stop and look at the effect that it is going to have on the Australian people.