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Wednesday, 24 March 2004
Page: 21849

Senator McGAURAN (4:48 PM) —On behalf of the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, I present a report entitled Cybercrime, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator McGAURAN —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate a tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

The report had its genesis in the apparent proliferation of available opportunities to commit criminal acts using information technology. The Committee had noted over a period of time that there were several key areas in which these opportunities were particularly evident, and wanted to assess what the Australian Crime Commission was doing, and could do, about it.

The terms of reference required the Committee to inquire into and report on recent trends in practices and methods of cybercrime with particular reference to:

(1) child pornography and associated paedophile activity;

(2) banking, including credit card fraud and money laundering; and

(3) threats to national critical infrastructure.

The Terms of Reference are authorised by paragraph 55(1) (d) of the Australian Crime Commission Act. The section lists the duties of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, one of which is to examine trends and changes in criminal activities, practices and methods and report to both Houses of the Parliament any change which the Committee thinks desirable to the functions, structure, powers and procedures of the Australian Crime Commission.

In 2001, the Parliament enacted the Cybercrime Act, which amended a number of Acts and inserted computer and related offences in the Criminal Code.

The Committee wanted to examine the place of the ACC in this scheme, and to examine possibilities for prevention and detection to which the ACC might be able to contribute.

The Committee took evidence in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and heard from a wide range of witnesses. Thirty five submissions were presented to the Committee, and have been placed on the Committee website.

From the evidence and the submissions, the Committee noted that there were four main community concerns:

access by children to unsuitable Internet content;

access to children by paedophiles;

the regulation of Internet Service Providers; and

the potential for crime in relation to Internet financial transactions.

During the course of the Inquiry there were incidents reported in the press which highlighted some of the issues canvassed by the Committee. These included the proliferation of spam and the use of chat rooms by paedophiles to groom children for sexual purposes.

The Parliament has already responded with the introduction of the Spam Act 2003, to which is added the very recent government initiative to amend the Telecommunications legislation, the Crimes Act 1914, and the Criminal Code Act 1996. These measures contained in draft legislation include the creation of a range of offences designed to prevent use of a telecommunications device to transmit pornographic material, and to procure a person under the age of consent for sexual purposes.

The Committee recommendations complement these initiatives. Included among them are:

a recommendation that the regulation of Internet Service Providers be examined, and the status of material held by them assessed;

a recommendation that the Government investigate partnerships for establishing a multimedia education campaign on the safe use of technology by children;

a recommendation that Commonwealth State and Territory Attorneys General liaise to ensure consistent cybercrime and related legislation within Australia in accordance with Australia's international obligations; and

recommendations that both the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian High Tech Crime Centre investigate the secure provision of general information on fraud trends to financial institutions, and, with other law enforcement agencies develop a national intelligence gathering strategy for cybercrime in the banking industry.

The issues canvassed by the Committee are among the most important facing our post industrial society. Parliament and the government must respond quickly to the challenges thrown up by rapidly changing technology: the security of personal data, including banking and financial information, and the protection of our children from those who seek to use technology to prey upon them, are essential to the healthy functioning of our families and our communities.

The recommendations in this report are intended to assist this process.

Senator McGAURAN —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.