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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7693

Senator HARRIS (11:34 AM) —I thank the Minister for Justice and Customs for his answer. As I said earlier, I asked that question because the matter relates to the ability to monitor the text messages of our youth. If there is a person under the age of 18 out there participating in an activity that would be to the detriment of the Australian people, I believe it would be a very useful way for the government—almost by default—to interview that person. To that end, I would like to quote something related to this process which was published in AustralianIT. In an article of 21 September, Sophie Morris wrote:

When Pakistani police arrested suspected al-Qa'ida terrorist Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Karachi this week, it was after matching his voice from broadcasts on Afghan television with intercepts of satellite phone conversations.

So there is an ability, with the technology that we have today, to carry out the process with a mobile phone or a fixed phone. This is the reason it is important for this committee to know that there is an alternative that the government could use very effectively in relation to youths suspected of carrying out activities. Senator Greig earlier mentioned that there will be people under the age of 18 who may be suspected of carrying out such activities. The one thing that we would not want to do in this chamber is to move an amendment which would put in place some protections for people based on their age. When we get the minister's answer to my question on notice, I believe it will show that there is a technical ability to intercept text messages. I think that would be one of the most efficient ways in which the government could carry out surveillance, particularly by ASIO and particularly in relation to any terrorist effects. I indicate for the record that One Nation will support the opposition's amendment.