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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 561

Mr SIMPKINS (12:48 PM) —I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Bill 2008, because we should never take lightly the decision by law enforcement agencies to seek warrants for the interception of telecommunications. It is a very serious matter, and it is an absolutely critical aid for crime fighters. From my past experience in the Australian Federal Police, it was always my understanding that the process of obtaining warrants involved a great deal of work and that they were never handed out on mere speculative theory. This bill creates amendments that allow the inclusion of Queensland’s Public Interest Monitor into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, which will enable Queensland law enforcement agencies to come under the T(IA) Act.

I think most of us here know that Queensland has always been a unique place with unique people. In fact, from a Western Australian point of view, all the other states are unique and different from mainstream Australia. I appreciate that the history of Queensland has led certain elements and the current state government to believe in the need for the unique position of the public interest monitor to act in what appears to be an oversight role of the actions of the police. That is their decision and far be it from me to question what appears to be a lack of faith by the Queensland government in not only their judiciary but also the parliament itself. That is fine; that is always their call. What I do find interesting is that, when this bill is passed, apparently the police in Queensland will have to go first to the public interest monitor to discuss a warrant and if it is in the public interest before going to the courts to seek the warrant. I would imagine—although I could not find it stated anywhere—that the public interest monitor could then not discuss that matter with any other person. That would have to be a legislative safeguard or prescribed somewhere in order to protect the police investigation. I assume that it is there.

I also understand that at the proceedings in court to seek a warrant the public interest monitor is also there to ensure that individual rights are preserved. I assume by that point that the public interest monitor can argue a point and that the presiding officer of the court will then make a decision on the matter.

It may be my background in the Australian Federal Police and the military police—it is not in the law but it is related somewhat—but I believe that the rights of people are enshrined throughout acts of parliament. Those acts are created and amended by the duly elected representatives of the people, and these are safeguards. The police are responsible for enforcing those laws, and the magistrates and judges are responsible for administering the processes of those laws. It was always my view that if we as police did not have the evidence to support any sort of warrant then it would not be granted. If it was granted by a magistrate and the case was later heard by a court, the original decision to grant that warrant my be reassessed and evidence gained via that warrant could later be rejected as evidence by the court. This is the normal system, by way of a simple explanation.

Of course, I often share the views of my constituents that the judgments by magistrates and judges in local court cases seem to be all too often out of touch with community expectations. Recently there was a case in Perth where two teenagers, a boy aged 15 and a girl aged 14, were told to leave a railway station because they were swearing loudly, using the f-word repeatedly. Transit guards took that action for the sake of good order and for nearby passengers. It was reported that those teenagers then swore in the same manner, showed aggression and fought with the transit guards. The magistrate at the Children’s Court, former Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer Deen Potter, then determined that using the f-word repeatedly did not necessitate the interference of the transit guards. The boy was convicted of kicking a guard in the stomach but, whilst resisting, his elbow was broken.

It is my view that we need to maintain a certain set of standards in this country. Young people growing up in this country should not be exposed to examples of the acceptance of swearing as being normal or appropriate in everyday life. If a young person wants a good job and wants to progress, they need to know that there are many occasions where their prospects will be limited if they cannot express themselves without swearing. Their potential will not be recognised because of such a fault. The last thing we need is a magistrate and, in many ways, a setter of community standards saying that loud and offensive swearing is okay in a public place and that it is not offensive. I, and no doubt a majority of Australians, do not want to be subject to it. I certainly do not want my children asking me what the f-word means. As I have said repeatedly in this place, if you have a go at your children or young people for swearing, do not swear yourself at any time. Do not practise a double standard. Community leaders like that magistrate and indeed all of us should not promote low standards or, worse, the sorts of double standards epitomised as ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Swearing at police and at those authorised to protect public safety or to provide emergency health care should result in arrests. Swearing in a public place such as public transport stations should be the subject of a single warning and then exclusion from that place. These are the community standards, and I say that it is not a right to be able to swear in such places; it is in fact a responsibility of everyone not to swear in such places. Magistrate Potter has made a mistake and I hope that he has reflected on his decision. It does no individual any good when community standards are thrown away. It will not help those Aboriginal teenagers to take advantage of the opportunities provided by society if they behave in an antisocial way, refuse to comply with an appropriate request and then show aggression towards those responsible for keeping our public transport safe. The transit guards in Perth have my respect, my complete confidence and my thanks for maintaining community standards and safety. It is a pity that some community leaders do no uphold the same standards. It is unbelievable that the parents in that case have asked for an apology and compensation. They should apologise to the transit guards for being parents that have allowed their teenager to grow up with standards of offensive swearing and aggression towards public officials.

That is somewhat of a digression because this matter is about Queensland and their processes. I have tried hard to find information and commentaries on the public interest monitor and the issues with Queensland joining in under the T(IA) Act. There seems to be some opposition from within Queensland to this occurring and I note that the Council for Civil Liberties seems to be against it. Of course, there are no surprises there. I also note that defence lawyers are against it. Surprise, surprise! Yet I think we can be sure that the vast majority of law-abiding Queenslanders are quite comfortable with the modern and highly professional Queensland police force being given every opportunity to quickly and effectively catch and prosecute criminals. I personally think they would be more comfortable with the same system the rest of the country uses without the public interest monitor, but again, that is not up to me or this federal parliament; that will remain a matter for the elected government of Queensland.

It is not the intention of the opposition to oppose this bill. In fact, we support it. I remain concerned about the way Queensland will conduct the process of obtaining warrants but I will look forward to seeing how their inclusion will proceed. I remain confident that the Queensland police will conduct themselves in a manner that truly represents their concern for the people of Queensland and their safety. I also look forward to many successful prosecutions of those involved in the illicit drug trade, offences against children and, in fact, all crimes. I look forward to the capability provided under the T(IA) Act being applied effectively for the people of Queensland and I wish the Queensland police every success in the future.