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
Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2945

Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - In the last few days the subject of telephone tapping has made the headlines. Since I first arrived in this place in 1967 I have, pursued this subject relentlessly in an endeavour to have the practice stamped out. After making calculations I have noticed that between 1968 and last year I spoke 18 times to this Parliament, either in the form of questions or in a specific speech, expressing my opposition to bugging. The Australian Broadcasting Commission program 'Four Corners' on 26 May 1973 contained an element relating to this question. I refer to what appeared to me to be a number of inconsistencies in claims by various individuals. In Queensland the interviewers received an assurance from the Attorney-General's office. This is what was said:

Since the implementation of the Invasion of Privacy Act in July 1972, there have been no applications from State Police to tap phones.

The interviewer went on to state:

That last October the State Attorney-General had, in fact, directed the Police Commissioner that the Stale Police were not to conduct phone taps, that there was a possibility of Federal legislation being contravened.

That order probably was an indirect result of my campaign over the period I mentioned. I am very pleased to learn that the State Attorney-General has been taking some notice. On the same program, the General Secretary of the Union for Postal Clerks and Telegraphists, Mr John Baker, stated:

Well, there is quite a large variety of equipment that we know of. For example, there is a category of telephones which was supposed to have been made exclusive for use to - sectors of the Postal Technicians within the telephone exchanges.

I am quoting from a transcript of that program but it is a little difficult to read what has been typed. Mr Baker continued:

We have reason to believe that these telephones are now held by people outside of the postal system altogether. Such a telephone allows the holder to dial across the conversation of anybody within the STD system. . .

Mr Bakersuggested that if a person acquired one of these instruments it would be possible to dial in on any telephone conversation simply by dialling the number of one of the persons party to that conversation.

Last night on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program 'PM' an interview was conducted with Mr John Ryan who claims to be a private investigator from Brisbane. He is not well known to me but I know of him and he is often described as being a somewhat dubious character. But all that aside, it was seen fit to use him on the program as a source of information. I am most concerned because last night he claimed that he knew of at least 20 or 30 instances of telephone tapping in Queensland in the last few months. He went on to say: . . and 1 know of quite a lot in Sydney and Melbourne and Canberra.

One wonders what to believe when one considers the information that comes from the Commonwealth Government and the various State governments, and also from the denials and claims by individuals. I think a claim was made a week before by some chap in New South Wales, also on the 'Four Corners' program, that he believed that one of his telephone conversations had been tapped.

Whether it be taping, tapping or bugging, as far as I am concerned it is much the same. It is an invasion of privacy. As I have said before in this place, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) unfortunately was the only person who ever gave me hope that one day something might be done. My own Party brought pressure to bear on the various State governments, but in my opinion it could have done a lot more to stamp out the blatant breaches of the various Acts introduced for the purpose of protecting the people of Australia. I hope that the new Government will give serious consideration to setting up a committee of inquiry to investigate the incidence of telephone tapping in Australia or, in other words, the intrusion into the privacy of individuals. There has been much conflict. We do not know for certain whether this tapping or taping is going on on a large scale. There is only one way to find out. The Parliament should not just rely on the various current affairs programs to glean snippets of information, what somebody here is claiming or what somebody there is claiming. I believe that we have a duty, if we are sincere in our efforts to protect the rights of the individual, to to something such as setting up a committee.

Alternatively, the Commonwealth Government should get cracking and enforce the Commonwealth Acts which presently exist. It is often forgotten by the people of this country that, just as it is illegal to tap a telephone conversation, it is illegal to tape a telephone conversation. That means simply that if you are having a conversation with somebody you cannot relay that telephone conversation on to a tape recording machine without the knowledge of the other party to that conversation. It is an internal blot on the record of this nation that some years ago the Commonwealth Government stood by and allowed the then Mayor of the city of Cairns in North Queensland to be convicted simply on the evidence of a recorded telephone conversation. From what I heard, the machine had well and truly seen better days. It was an ancient tape recording machine. But the Commonwealth Government stood by and allowed the Queensland Government to prosecute and finally convict the mayor of Cairns. He later died. I can assure the House-


Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Possibly he died from natural causes. I was not there for that part of it.

Mr Daly - You sound like a mourner.

Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I do not feel too well today. The Minister is very perceptive. The point I am making is that we owe it to the people of Australia to do everything possible to enforce the presently existing laws, because they are strong enough. I believe also that it would be in the interests of the nation if we were to set up an inquiry to see whether these people who claim to be aware of tapping or who claim to have had their telephone conversations intercepted are speaking the truth. As far as I am concerned, enforcement of the law from now on is not good enough. I would like to know what has gone on in the past. If records of conversations have been made, everything should be done to erase and destroy those illegal recordings.

Suggest corrections