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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Mr Whitlam asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

When will he give me the considered reply which he promised on 29th August 1967 (Hansard, page 499) to my question concerning the monitoring of telegrams and letters to members of Parliament?

Mr HaroldHolt - On 29th August the Leader of the Opposition asked me a question without notice supplementary to one put to me by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). The first part of that question asked whether I could give assurance that telegrams and letters to members of Parliament which the Leader of the Opposition said were not covered by statutory provisions, were not intercepted by any government agency. I undertook to treat that as a question on notice and I now givemy reply.

It is not correct, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, that there are no statutory provisions relating to the interception of telegrams and letters.

The Post and Telegraph Act provides that, except in the cases expressly mentioned in the Act, no letter shall be delivered to any person not named in the address thereof without the consent of the addressee or the direction in writing of the Postmaster-General.

The Act also provides that it is an offence for a person employed in a telegraph office to divulge the contents or substance of a telegram otherwise than by delivering the telegram to the person to whom he is authorised to deliver it.

However, authority is given by the Act to intercept, under prescribed conditions, letters reasonably suspected . of containing any enclosure, in fraud or violation of the Post and Telegraph Act or any Act relating to the Customs, or letters addressed to persons reasonably suspected of receiving money in connection with fraudulent undertakings or for certain other specified purposes.

In addition, the Telegraph Regulations provide that, upon a subpoena or written request by proper authority, a telegram may be produced by the Postmaster-General, the Director-General or a Director of Post and Telegraphs where required in the interests of justice or for the prevention or detection of crime or illegal practices.

These matters recognised, I am able to give the assurance that has been sought.

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