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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 23


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (1:58 PM) —In the little time remaining before question time I will start the reply on behalf of the government to the second reading debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment (Stored Communications) Bill 2004. A number of issues have been raised. A question was raised by Senator Greig about the number of warrants that have been issued. In relation to that I can say that the annual report on the Telecommunications (Interception) Act records a 22 per cent increase from the previous reporting year in the number of warrants issued to law enforcement agencies. The annual report also shows a much larger increase in the number of prosecutions commenced on the basis of information obtained through the execution of telecommunication interception warrants, which would demonstrate the usefulness of these warrants in relation to the prosecution of criminal offences. Those people targeted by law enforcement agencies in their investigations into serious criminal offences are becoming more sophisticated in their use of telecommunications technology. The increase in the number of interception warrants reflects the increasing use by targets of multiple services, mobile phones and prepaid services. The increase of 22 per cent in relation to the issuance of those warrants is therefore something that you would expect in this environment and it has certainly led to a 59 per cent increase in the number of prosecutions. The act contains safeguards to ensure that interception warrants are issued sparingly and as an investigative tool of last resort.

A number of other matters were raised by senators during the second reading debate. Senator Greig raised concern about privacy issues, and Senators Buckland and Kirk raised an issue in relation to the Australian Federal Police and the AGD. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.