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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 564

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (12:56 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank members for the contributions they have made in this debate on the Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Bill 2008. At the outset I should respond to one or two comments that have been made, noting that the opposition is supporting this legislation, which the government appreciates. The member for La Trobe referred to allegations of inadequate policing at least, particularly in the area of counterterrorism. This government takes the safety and security of Australians as its primary concern. That is fundamental to the responsibility of government. I remind the honourable member that at the last budget the government provided $191 million or thereabouts to recruit 500 additional Federal Police officers.

Unlike some examples that have been well aired publicly, on which I will not take up the parliament’s time now, I think it is fair to say that our police, intelligence agencies and prosecution authorities have never been working as effectively, both individually but, more importantly, collectively as they have ever been in this country. The current government has done a lot of work and the agencies have done a lot of work to ensure that that occurs. They have developed operational protocols between the respective agencies—that is, when a matter is appropriately an intelligence function, when it is appropriately a policing function and when it does move on to eventual prosecution. It is fair to say that, unlike some dramatic failures in the previous government, some successes we have seen in recent times have been a result of that cooperation. Very useful prosecution guidelines have also been developed in consultation with my department and with the agencies. Agency heads now hold regular meetings. There are regular secondments between the agencies, and there is a program for getting the intelligence and policing functions happening at street level. This was commented upon in the Clarke inquiry in respect of the Haneef matter recently. More work needs to be done in that area to get the agencies, now that they are cooperating tremendously effectively at a federal level, to enhance that cooperation with our state counterparts, but a lot of work is already underway, and it is being undertaken despite 12 years when the previous government had the opportunity of making those sorts of reforms and achieving those sorts of efficiencies.

This bill is an important step in ensuring law enforcement agencies can protect the safety and security of Australians wherever they live. Currently, Queensland is the only jurisdiction whose agencies cannot seek or execute an interception warrant. Passage of this bill will clear the way for Queensland to enact legislation that satisfies the accountability obligations set out in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. By recognising a role for the public interest monitor in this act, Queensland will be able to legislate an oversight role for that body without conflicting with the Commonwealth act. The bill maintains the integrity of the interception regime by prescribing a role for the public interest monitor that recognises its importance to the oversight of police activities in Queensland while respecting the independence and integrity of decision makers, as currently set out in the act. I look forward to receiving future advice from the Queensland authorities regarding the passage of their legislation, which I understand will shortly be introduced into the Queensland parliament. I also look forward to notification that Queensland has completed the remaining statutory tasks required under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act to enable me to declare Queensland law enforcement agencies to be interception agencies. I expect this process to be completed by mid-2009. At that point, the interception regime will be for the first time truly a national scheme. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.