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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26155

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (3:01 PM) —During question time on 5 August 2004, Senator Greig asked me a question in my capacity as the Minister representing the Attorney-General regarding telecommunications interception. I undertook to provide further information and now seek leave to incorporate my answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

The 2002-2003 Annual Report on the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 records that 1535 arrests were made on the basis of intercepted material. This figure represents a small increase over the 1479 arrests effected the previous reporting year, and a substantial 48 per cent increase above the number of arrests for the year ending 30 June 2001. A total of 3058 telecommunications interception warrants were issued during the reporting year.

The Annual Report also shows a 59 per cent increase in the number of prosecutions commenced on the basis of information obtained through the execution of a telecommunications interception warrant and a 31 per cent increase in the number of convictions secured using intercepted material.

The Annual Report includes all instances where a telecommunications interception warrant has been sought. If emails, voicemail or SMS are accessed under the authority of a telephone intercept (TI) warrant, that warrant is included in the figures reported in the annual report.

Not all access to email and SMS will amount to interception. Where an email has been retrieved by the intended recipient a TI warrant is not required and recovery of such data can be lawfully obtained under a Crimes Act search warrant or some other lawful authority.

As access in these circumstances is not obtained under a telecommunications interception warrant, figures for access in this manner are not included in the statistics reported in the annual report prepared under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act. However seizure of such evidence is documented in a property seizure record which is provided to an owner or occupier of a premises or person being searched if seized under a Crimes Act warrant.

The Telecommunications Interception (Stored Communications) Bill addresses the question of lawful access to stored communications, allowing police to access SMS, email and voicemail and other stored communications without the requirement for a telecommunications interception warrant where those communications are stored.