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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 932

(Question No. 1377)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 5 May 1994:

  With reference to recent reports of an AUSTEL investigation into Telecom concerning complaints laid by the group known as Casualties of Telecom (COT):

  (1) Will the report of the investigation be made available for parliamentary scrutiny; if not, on what basis has this decision been made.

  (2) Is there also an investigation into these and related matters currently being undertaken by the Australian Federal Police (AFP); if so, will the report of such an AFP investigation be made public; if not, why not.

  (3) Do both these investigations concern complaints about interception of private and business telephone calls by Telecom without due authorisation or warrant.

  (4) Has the file of Mr John Doohan, of Willagee, Western Australia, been made available by Telecom to AUSTEL and the AFP for inclusion in each organisation's investigations and will the Minister confirm that Mr Doohan has provided considerable evidence over a long period of time about Telecom's long-term interception and audio-taping of his calls without warrant.

  (5) Has Mr Doohan also provided evidence to the Attorney-General about a Telecom file relating to his complaints and does this file contain notes by Telecom employees and employees of other government agencies which purport to provide psychiatric opinions about Mr Doohan when no medical evidence to support such opinions exist.

  (6) Have some of these file notes been marked `secret'.

  (7) Has Mr Doohan complained to the Attorney-General about this file and Telecom's reference to material contained in the file as reason to refuse to conduct investigations into complaints of unauthorised interception and taping of telephone calls.

  (8) Has Mr Doohan requested the Attorney-General to ensure that all files relating to Mr Doohan held by Telecom, AUSTEL, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the AFP be included in the material considered by AUSTEL and the AFP in their investigations and what action has the Attorney-General taken to comply with Mr Doohan's request.

Senator Bolkus —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) The AUSTEL report—entitled `The COT Cases: AUSTEL's Findings and Recommendations' and dated April 1994—is a public document.

  (2) Yes. The Attorney-General is advised that the AFP is currently conducting an investigation into these and related matters.

  The Attorney-General is also advised that, in accordance with a longstanding practice for reasons of protecting sensitive investigations, no AFP reports on investigations will be made public.

  (3) The Assistant Commissioner, Investigations has advised the Attorney-General that the AFP investigation concerns the alleged interception of telephone services for purposes other than fault finding, maintenance or the operation of the telephone service. It also involves the alleged use of information obtained from the alleged interceptions.

  (4) The Assistant Commissioner, Investigations has advised the Attorney-General that Telecom has not made any file relating to Mr Doohan available to the AFP. The Assistant Commissioner further advised that AUSTEL provided the AFP with material relating to Mr Doohan and that a letter was received from him on 1 June 1994. The Attorney-General is also advised that Mr John Doohan has been in contact with the AFP and that arrangements are being made to interview him about his complaints.

  The Attorney-General is advised that Departmental records show that on 31 May 1984 the then Attorney-General, Senator the Hon Gareth Evans, wrote to Mr Doohan confirming that Telecom monitored his telephone during normal business hours Monday to Friday between 16 January 1984 and 6 February 1984. This monitoring was undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 in an attempt to trace the service fault of which Mr Doohan complained. None was found and the monitoring was stopped.

  The Attorney-General has no knowledge of what Telecom files (if any) have been made available to AUSTEL because it is not an agency within his portfolio responsibilities.

  (5) Mr Doohan wrote to the Attorney-General on 7 March 1994 alleging that Telecom unlawfully intercepted and recorded his telephone calls and that Telecom has kept records of Mr Doohan's complaint which purport to provide allegedly unfounded psychiatric opinions about him.

  Mr Doohan attached to his letter to the Attorney-General copies of various documents, including his correspondence between 1983 and the present with Senator Durack (the Attorney-General in early 1983), AUSTEL and the AFP, and copies of departmental documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, relating to his correspondence with the then Attorney-General in 1977. There is also evidence in the Department's records of prolific correspondence in the mid to late 1970s with Senator Durack's predecessor, the Hon R J Ellicott, the predecessor of the AFP, the Commonwealth Police, and its responsible Minister, Senator Reg Withers the then Minister for Administrative Services.

  Telecom is not an agency within the Attorney-General's portfolio responsibilities. Consequently, the Attorney-General has not seen the file to which Mr Doohan refers, should it exist, and cannot comment on its contents.

  (6) The Attorney-General has not seen the Telecom file referred to and so is unable to comment. However, he notes that some of the 1977 documents which Mr Doohan obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, copies of which he provided to the Attorney-General, originated from ASIO and were classified `secret', as were some subsequent departmental documents based on those documents. These documents were declassified before being released to Mr Doohan.

  (7) Yes. Mr Doohan made complaints of that nature in his letter of 7 March 1994 to the Attorney-General.

  (8) In his letter of 7 March 1994, Mr Doohan asked the Attorney-General to recommend to the AFP that it take into account, in its investigations referred to in question (2) and (3) above, any documents relating to Mr Doohan's complaint. Mr Doohan has authorised for the purposes of those investigations the public use of such documents that may be held by the Attorney-General's Department, Telecom or the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

  The Attorney-General is advised that on 22 March 1994, an officer of the Attorney-General's Department forwarded to the AFP the documents which Mr Doohan provided, advised the AFP of Mr Doohan's authorisation and advised Mr Doohan of this action in a letter of the same date. The AFP acknowledged receipt of that material in a letter to Mr Doohan dated 28 March 1994.

  As for documents which may be held by Telecom or the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Attorney-General notes that neither agency is within his portfolio responsibilities and that he cannot comment on their behalf.