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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7130

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (12:36): So, Senator Brandis, my understanding of the answer that you provided to Senator Macdonald and then myself is that there is actually no upper limit, that there is no maximum number of devices or no cap, I suppose—which is what the Australian Greens amendment goes to directly. I think it is extraordinary that the government would draft an amendment that the Labor Party would then support—without criticism, as far as I can tell—that sets no upper limit on the number of devices that a single ASIO warrant could catch. So, not just in theory but practically, a single warrant could be sought and received to capture a single mobile phone handset or a local area network or an entire university campus or an entire township. I think you can see where this is going. There is no upper limit on the number of devices.

Senator Brandis has obviously responded fairly heatedly. I may be in error in my interpretation of the answer he provided to us yesterday. I would be delighted if my understanding is in error, because what the Greens have proposed and what this amendment seeks to do is to impose an upper limit. I get the argument as to why ASIO thinks it is reasonable that they should not need to apply for a warrant for every single device. Under the circumstances in which we operate today, in a particular residence there might be a dozen handsets, laptops, desktop computers, tablets and goodness knows what. So, understanding the purpose behind ASIO not wanting to have to apply for a warrant for every single device, we nonetheless have extremely serious concerns. It is not the Greens alone who are concerned about this. Leaving it uncapped, leaving it at the discretion of either ASIO or the minister to allow as many devices as ASIO sees fit, is extraordinary. It requires amendment. I hope I have government, opposition and crossbench support for that.