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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 17


Senator GREIG (1:26 PM) —by leave—I move Democrats amendments (1) to (3) and (31) to (33) on sheet 4360:

(1) Clause 6, page 9 (line 26), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

(2) Clause 6, page 9 (line 30), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

(3) Clause 6, page 10 (line 24), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

(31) Clause 45, page 52 (line 36), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

(32) Clause 45, page 54 (line 35), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

(33) Schedule 1, item 7, page 80 (line 20), omit “3 years”, substitute “7 years”.

These amendments collectively respond to concerns raised principally by the Law Council of Australia that the Surveillance Devices Bill 2004 enables the use of surveillance devices in the investigation of too wide a range of offences. I spoke to that in the second reading debate. The bill currently permits surveillance devices to be used in relation to suspected offences involving, as I said, a maximum penalty of three years or more. We agree with the view of the Law Council that that should be increased to offences punishable by a sentence of at least seven years or more, and that is what we are seeking to achieve through this suite of amendments.

As I said in the second reading debate, the use of surveillance devices to monitor the movements and conversations of individuals is extremely intrusive and clearly interferes with the right to privacy. It also violates the right to silence, which would otherwise apply to those suspected of criminal offences. We feel that this kind of covert monitoring can only ever be justified by very strong, overriding policy considerations. The government has argued that it can be justified by the need to bring to justice those who commit serious offences. We believe strongly that the bill has been cast too broadly and that it fails to limit the use of surveillance devices to the most serious of criminal offences. Accordingly, we believe the bill should be amended so that this provision applies to offences punishable by a sentence of seven years or more, and that goes to the heart of this suite of amendments.