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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1300

Senator DURACK(10.09) —I move:

Page 3, proposed new sub-section 7C, after 'document' (wherever occurring), insert 'or information'.

My amendment to clause 3 of the Bill concerns proposed new section 7C which is a declaration of Parliament's intention to avoid doubts about the ambit of the Telecommunications (Interception) Act. I have already referred to the provision, which is in the widest possible terms, contained in existing section 7 (4) which reads:

A person shall not divulge or communicate to another person, or make use of or record any information obtained by intercepting a communication . . .

There are some exceptions. Proposed new section 7 (4) raises the question of whether or not any information can be given to a law enforcement agency even in relation to the question of investigating the possible illegal interception itself. We know that even the Solicitor General of New South Wales questioned whether or not she was entitled to have the material for the purpose of investigating breaches of State laws. I suppose the question could have been raised by Mr Temby or it could apply to whether the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge could have had the material.

Senator Gareth Evans —Or me.

Senator DURACK —Or the Attorney himself. On one interpretation this has an extraordinary wide effect, which I am sure is not the way that it would or should be interpreted. For those who have been in the position of handling some of this material in recent months it is a matter of some concern as they are all very significantly responsible for the enforcement and the observance of the law . We support the proposed new section. It is very proper to clarify the matter, although in fact it does not clarify it to the extent that may have been required by the Solicitor General of New South Wales or even the Attorney- General. I am not absolutely certain or not my amendment is required but it occured to me that if a person has a document which he suspects is a record of an interception of a telephone conversation, the amendment proposes that he can give that document to law enforcement agencies. He may not just have a document. He may have other information or he may have information only about a document. He may have seen a document. Somebody might have shown it to him but not given it to him, but he may have information about it. He may have to describe it, and so on.

As I have said, I have proposed this amendment to raise the question as to whether or not it would not be preferable, as my amendment suggests, to add the word 'information' after the word 'document' just to clarify the general position. I would welcome any comment the Attorney has to make as to whether he sees any necessity for it. I only raised the amendment in that sense.