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Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Page: 10

Senator XENOPHON (1:12 PM) —I can indicate my broad support for the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2009. Technology and the ways we communicate are constantly changing, and it is important to have legislation to keep up to date with this. The widespread use of mobile phones and portable internet devices has changed the way we communicate forever. It is important that we have clear and appropriate frameworks in place to protect both network owners and operators as well as network users. I appreciate the importance of this bill, particularly as the current framework has expired. Organisations need to have the right to protect their networks and internal communications, but, on the other hand, employees and network users also have a right to privacy.

I am concerned that at this stage the bill does not include a clearer definition of what activities are covered under the term ‘network protection duties’. This term determines whether someone is able to access and intercept another person’s communication under the amendment. I believe that this definition, in its current form, is not strong enough to protect network users. Private communications should only be accessed by a third party when it is vital to network protection or in the case of professional misconduct.

In this line, I indicate my support for the amendments moved by the Greens. I believe these amendments are important because they help to keep the bill true to its intentions. Firstly, these amendments clarify the definition of ‘network protection duties’ to include automatic monitoring for network malfunctions, malicious content and viruses. This clarification is important because it separates standard network protection from the direct monitoring of individual communications. Secondly, the amendments seek to clarify the definition of ‘appropriate use’. It is important that this area of the legislation is clear so that both network owner-operators and users are aware of their responsibilities and rights. Finally, the amendments ensure that copies made of information seized under the act will be destroyed along with the originals.

I think these amendments go a long way to making this legislation fairer for both owner-operators and network users. I do have concerns about the possible abuse of the term ‘network protection duties’, but I would like to indicate my support for this bill. My preference is that it have the additional safeguards as proposed by the Greens.