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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3048


Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the Attorney-General's intention to introduce legislation to amend the Telecommunications (Interception) Act in order to enable crucial evidence to be forwarded to the New South Wales Government Special Commission of Inquiry and remind him that the Special Minister of State and, indeed, by implication, the Prime Minister-not quite as explicitly as the Special Minister of State-have indicated in the House the desirability for such amendments. Why is the Government now not prepared to introduce the amendment?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —The Government is quite prepared to introduce the amendment. What might be concerning the Opposition are the Press reports that there has been some discussion about the extent to which the amendment would allow access to all incidental telephone conversations being admitted in any other jurisdiction. The question of privacy is involved. It has been suggested that there ought to be a better balance. In other words, I think anybody in the House would agree that whilst members of the Australian Federal Police have a warrant for a specific purpose to intercept a telephone conversation, if, during the course of that conversation, they then decide to listen to a lot of other extraneous material, it would then become a question of judgment as to whether the warrant entitles that material then to be introduced into any other jurisdiction.


Mr Cadman —Why should the Caucus decide that issue?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —As a matter of interest the Caucus happens to comprise people elected to this Parliament, not people outside it. We happen to be a democratic Party. Everybody is entitled to make representations. I assure the honourable gentleman that there is no problem about the nub of what he is saying. Where a warrant is issued for a specific purpose it is felt, in a reasonable fashion, that its use ought to be related to that purpose. If, in the course of the use of the warrant, every conversation, every name or accusation is then on tape and can be admitted or produced anywhere else, that is outside the terms of the warrant. The Parliament only allows telephone intercepts under certain circumstances. A warrant has to be issued and the purpose has to be nominated. If, in the process of the intercept, a whole lot of other material comes within the knowledge of the police authorities, then it is a matter of judgment as to what one would allow to be admitted to some other group, tribunal or whatever. In this case it is a matter of practice that the Federal Police make available to their State counterparts information that they have. But the question in this case is what sort of material can be put before a commission, an inquiry, or what have you, and sought by another instrumentality such as a State. Should the material be confined to material directly related to the purposes of the warrant , or should it be all embracing and include any material which could affect anybody's private rights and his or her rights to privacy? That is the reason we asked for this legislation to be looked at again. Anything on tape, whether or not it is relevant, or whether it is related to that matter or any other matter, could just be introduced because of a request--


Mr Peacock —So the Attorney is redrafting the proposed amendment?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I am not certain whether the Attorney-General is redrafting it but he was asked to look at it in terms of whether it was too wide.


Mr Peacock —I assume that there must be an intention to do something about it after looking at it.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —There is no problem about it. The matter is coming back for discussion at the Party meeting, probably next week.