Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 17 May 1960


Mr STEWART (Lang) .- The bill is opposed by the Australian Labour Party in its entirety. The Opposition believes that the principle that will be given the imprimatur of this Parliament with the passage of the bill is one which, to use the words of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), is abhorrent to all Australians. The Attorney-General, however, did not allow that to prevent him from introducing the bill, which includes certain provisions that are as wide open as the Sydney Heads.

Two or three clauses should be brought to the attention of the committee in the hope that the Attorney-General will see that the drafting of the bill is such that it requires a second look. I refer particularly to clause 6, which gives authority to the Attorney-General to issue a warrant for the tapping of telephones under certain conditions. In this clause, there occur phrases such as " as is likely to be ", " of being likely to engage in " and " is likely to assist ". There are only a few safeguards in the clause. The first is that the Director-General of Security must have grounds for reasonably suspecting certain things. If he reasonably suspects that activities prejudicial to the Commonwealth are taking place, and the Attorney-General is satisfied that his suspicions are correct, there is a right to issue a warrant to tap the telephone of the person or organization concerned. The suspicions of the DirectorGeneral would, in some instances, be aroused by what were, in fact, innocent associations and innocent actions. However, if the Director-General says that he has a reasonable suspicion that a person is likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, and if the Attorney-General is satisfied that those suspicions are reasonable, the Attorney-General can issue a warrant for the tapping of a telephone. In other words, all power is given to the AttorneyGeneral.

I do not claim that the present AttorneyGeneral and the present Director-General of Security are not reasonable, just and honorable men, but in view of the debates in this chamber, I feel there are many persons who would agree with the opinion that has been expressed, that the present AttorneyGeneral and the Director-General of Security are not just, reasonable and honorable men. However, taking it for granted that they are just, reasonable and honest men, what safeguards are there that their successors will be as just, honorable and reasonable as they are? The men who hold those positions in the future will have exactly the same powers to determine which telephone lines will be tapped. They will have to work under this legislation, which will give authority to the Attorney-General to act once he is satisfied that a person's telephone is likely to be used for an activity which is prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that the information obtained from tapping the telephone is likely to assist security. No wider scope could be given to any two individuals than that which is provided in the terms of clause 6. The words that stand out are " that is likely to be used ", " is likely to assist " and " likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth ".

The second-reading speech of the AttorneyGeneral indicated that no person in the Commonwealth will be above this measure. The Minister devoted perhaps two pages of his speech to saying why it had not been decided that the telephones of members of Parliament should not be tapped. In other words, he has suggested that every member of this Parliament is likely to use his telephone for prejudicial activities, or is likely to engage in subversion, sabotage or espionage. I am not saying it will happen, but this bill would permit the Attorney-General, in collusion with the Director-General of Security, to tap any telephone of any member of this Parliament. Clause 6 specifies certain conditions that are to be complied with when the Director-General of Security requests the Attorney-General for the issue of a warrant. Clause 6 (2.) states - (2.) A request by the Director-General of Security for the issue of a warrant in respect of a telephone service -

(b)   shall specify the facts and other grounds on which the Director-General of Security considers it necessary that the warrant should be issued and, where relevant, the grounds on which the Director-General of Security suspects a person of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.

Once again the ground has been left open. These suspicions need not be confirmed before the Director-General requests a warrant to be issued for the tapping of telephones.


Mr Bandidt - How would you word it?


Mr STEWART - It is not my duty to word the bill. The complaint I make about it is that this clause is so wide that the Attorney-General could drive a doubledecker bus through it without scraping the sides. The Attorney-General, an eminent lawyer, must realize that the clause would allow him or some successor of his, or the Director-General of Security or some successor of his, to tap any telephone under any pretext. The only matter that need be proved is that the person concerned is reasonably suspected of being engaged, or of being likely to engage, in activities prejudicial to the Commonwealth. If some people were Attorney-General they would welcome the opportunity to use this bill against people whom they wanted to besmirch or to get out of the way, because there is plenty of scope to use it against any person. It is against all the principles of Australian freedom and democracy to allow a bill such as this to be passed without a voice of protest being raised by at least one section of the chamber. Up to this moment, all the Liberal members have agreed entirely with every provision of the bill.

The further clause I desire to mention is clause 7, which gives the right to the Director-General of Security to issue a warrant in certain emergencies. The clause lays down the circumstances in which the Director-General has power to issue a warrant in an emergency. The first of these is where the Director-General of Security has made a request to the Attorney-General for the issue of a warrant under the provisions of clause 6 in respect of a telephone service. Clause 6 (3.) provides -

Where the Director-General of Security makes a request, otherwise than in writing, for the issue of a warrant in respect of a telephone service, he shall forthwith forward to the Attorney-General a request in writing in respect of the telephone service.

It is quite clear that the Director-General can, on any occasion, request - it does not have to be in writing in the first instance - that a certain person's telephone be tapped. If that request is made, he must forthwith put his request in writing for the AttorneyGeneral to consider. This is a bill which deals with the security of the Commonwealth and if the Director-General of Security requests from any AttorneyGeneral authority to tap a telephone, the Director-General has, at the same time, to give the facts, the reasons and the grounds-







Suggest corrections