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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 89

Senator BROWN (6:09 PM) —We ought to have definition here, but we have none. It is obvious that the application of this legislation goes way beyond what the average citizen sees as criminal activity and behaviour or terrorism. This is an example of the climate of the day being used by the government to truncate civil liberties unnecessarily. We are for the enhancement of surveillance and policing opportunities when it comes to containing terrorists and people who are engaged in serious criminal activities, and our record has shown that. But here we have a catch-all situation, or at least an unlimited situation—the minister cannot describe where the limits are. It is not my role to go through every piece of legislation on the Commonwealth statutes and ask the minister whether that legislation could apply to somebody using that act, which is not the Crimes Act.

The minister does not know how it may apply to the Family Court, for example. There are literally scores of other pieces of legislation which could come into play under the authority of this bill, when and if it becomes enacted. That is why the Greens cannot support it. It is giving quite unprecedented powers in unprecedented technologies for citizens' information to be scanned through and to become the property of a government agency or other persons or courts, potentially unbeknown to the individual who is involved. We ought to have it tightly defined and we ought to know exactly what we are dealing with here, but we do not.

The argument put forward by the government is that this is just a 12-month trial; there is no substitute coming down the line. The reality is that in 12 months, with the government in control of the Senate, we are going to get this bill simply put through one afternoon—re-enacted at the end of that 12-month period. It is not good enough to have vague generalities, an inability to answer specific questions and the situation where senators have to ask the minister: `What about this bill? What about that act? What about this piece of legislation?' We ought to have a very tightly confined and described ability for such intrusive legislation as this to be used in the public interest, but not against the individual interest, when citizens have so much at stake here. The government is remiss in not being able to be very explicit about it, and I think it is unfortunate that there has not been wider public debate on this matter.