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Tuesday, 26 February 1980
Page: 393

Dr Klugman asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:

(   1 ) What is the mechanism by which phone tapping may be authorised by (a) the Commonwealth and (b) the States.

(2)   How many authorisations were obtained in each year since 1970.

(3)   How many (a) Commonwealth and (b) State parliamentarians were amongst those whose phones were tapped during each of those years.

(4)   How many phone tappings are authorised at present.

Mr Viner - The Attorney-General has provided the following answers to the honourable member's question:

(   1 ) The High Court decision in Miller v. Miller (1978)53 ALJR established that the Commonwealth Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 covers the field as regards the interception of telephonic communications passing over the telephone system. Provision is made in that Act for the Attorney-General, when requested by the DirectorGeneral of Security, to issue a warrant authorising the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to intercept communications passing over the telephone system if he is satisfied that-

(a)   the telephone service is being or is likely to be-

(i)   used by a person engaged in, or reasonably suspected by the Director-General of Security of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth; or

(ii)   used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth; and

(b)   the interception by the Organisation of Communications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to, assist the Organisation in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth.

In emergency circumstances the Director-General of Security may authorise the interception of communications. There is no provision in the Act that would permit the States to intercept telephone communications passing over the telephone system. I am not aware of any State law purporting to permit such action.

The Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 will be replaced by the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 when that Act enters into force.

(2)   , (3) and (4) In accordance with the general practice of successive Governments, I do not propose to provide information concerning the operations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

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