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Attorney-General discusses investigation into privacy of information provided to security hotline.

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Date: 17/11/05

Page: 1


Station: 2UE Date: 15/11/2005



Time: 10:17 AM

Compere: JOHN LAWS Summary ID: S00019933521



Demographics: Male 16+ Female 16+ All people Abs GBs

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COMPERE: On the line we have our Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. Attorney, good morning.


COMPERE: And thank you for giving us some of your time again.


COMPERE: The investigation you referred to yesterday, has that actually commenced?


COMPERE: Can you tell me how it’s progressed?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I can tell you what our initial views are: and that is that there is no evidence to suggest that any information that was provided to the hotline for the purposes of their reporting was made public…

COMPERE: No, I would have doubted that would have been the case.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Secondly that there were no witness names - that is the proper person - included in any of the documentation…

COMPERE: No, but there was the company name?

AGENCY REPORT For private research and not to be disseminated. Every effort made to ensure accuracy for the benefit of our clients but no legal responsibility is taken for errors or omissions.


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ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well clearly there were four companies that were specified in the search warrants about which they were seeking information to confirm that products that they had supplied were in the hands of, or at particular locations, where the search warrants were being executed.

And there seems to me no doubt that the issue which we

have to look at - and which I am seeking a formal

submission - is in relation to the procedural aspects of the issue of search warrants that make it necessary for, first, the warrant to be made available and left with the occupier, and the extent to which you need to be specific in terms of the information that you provide about what it is you are looking for.

The issue arises in the context of the courts for valid search

warrants require that there is sufficient information to justify the issue of the warrant, so that it’s clear that it’s not a mere fishing expedition by the police…

COMPERE: Certainly, but those specifics surely should be left off the

warrant when the warrant is handed to the people who are under suspicion?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, as I’ve said, the law appears to be quite clear: that the specific information is included in the warrant to identify the need for it, but it seems to me that you need to be able to protect people and you need to be able to protect them from the possibility of intimidation. It’s not just journalists who might be able to follow these matters up, it’s far more serious than that…

COMPERE: Far more.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …and I have asked for the whole question of what information should be included in search warrants to now be examined, and how it is provided to the people on whom it’s served.

COMPERE: Yeah, because if the company’s name is put there - and it

was - anybody can do an ASIC search, the suspect’s family could get your home address from just doing a company search?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That’s right. There is no doubt that the information that is provided, if you are prepared to make further inquiries, would reveal the identity of the people involved in potentially providing the information.


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COMPERE: Yeah, well what would happen if the relatives - we’re not dealing with nice people here, they’re not Sunday school teachers, what would happen if the relatives got hold of it and decided that they wanted to attack my man, Geoff, because he gave them up?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And I think that’s a legitimate concern, John. That’s why I’ve treated the complaint to you very seriously; it’s why I raised it yesterday with the Deputy Commissioner of Police; it’s why I’ve received this report today; it’s why I’m asking that the procedural aspects be examined to see whether the law needs to be changed.

COMPERE: Apparently the attitude of the Federal Police to Geoff was, well, that’s the way we do it and once we’ve got the information it’s ours to do with whatever we like, too bad, and nothing’s going to change. Whereas the New South Wales Police Force apparently were very accommodating, very concerned and said they’d do everything they could to make sure he was protected.

But this man’s wife is now concerned for his safety…

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And I understand that…

COMPERE: I do, too.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …and, look, the point I’d make is that I understand the AFP saw him last night and, in talking to the officers, I am reasonably satisfied that they would’ve said: this is the framework of law under which we’re operating…

COMPERE: I understand that, too.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …that’s not my job, my job is to look at whether the framework of law under which they’re operating is appropriate.

COMPERE: Okay, well it’s obviously not?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That’s my view.

COMPERE: Are you going to change it?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’ve asked for a report on it to look at how we can ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, John, that’s what I’m doing.

COMPERE: But in the meantime people are going to be very loathe to

call the hotline because they might feel that their name and details are going to be available to other people?


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ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, what is quite clear is that if there is information which we have received which requires an organisation to execute a search warrant at the moment, the evidence on which that is based has to be provided to the judge to get the warrant issued and it has to be included, as the law is presently drafted, in the warrant which is handed to the person whose property is to be searched.

And, you know, a lot of this develops because the courts

have, over a period of time, demanded specificity. They - when somebody says my property has been searched, I don’t think it was a valid search warrant - challenge it, and that’s the environment in which the police have been operating.

It’s never been brought to my attention before, but I have

asked for these matters now to be looked at in detail to see what changes to the law can be properly pursued.

COMPERE: Yes. You see I had a woman on the phone this morning

from the back of Burke - literally the back of Burke - and she had had an experience talking to a couple of people of middle-eastern appearance who happened to be in the same shop as she was. She noted the colour of the car and the sort of car, she noticed the appearance of these people, and it’s pretty obvious now that they were a couple of people who were involved with was going on at the back of Burke with this training in outback properties.

Now she’s going to be terrified to talk to the hotline and she

probably has information there which would be very handy to them.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well let me just say what I’ve said to people generally about Australians: we all have a responsibility in relation to the investigation of these matters to try and help and provide information to enable proper enquiries to be pursued; we have to ensure that people are protected when they are involved in that process and that’s the issue that I’m going to have a look at.

COMPERE: Okay. How long might it take to change it?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well sometimes I act very quickly, John, and I think it’s a very pressing issue and I’ve asked the most senior level that these matters be examined.

COMPERE: Okay. I appreciate you time and thank you very much for it.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Pleasure, John. Thank you.


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