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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1147

Senator MURPHY - My question is directed to either the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories or the Attorney-General, whoever is the more appropriate, or to both of them in their respective capacities, lt concerns the public outcry in Papua New Guinea about telephone tapping and eavesdropping by public officials in connection with the administration of justice and the reports that even the conversations of lawyers with their clients have been telephone tapped, to use the ordinary expression, and that there seems to be no law to prevent this or, if there is, that it is not being enforced. Could either or both of the Ministers inform the Senate of the practice in Papua New Guinea with regard to eavesdropping by public officials or the interception of telephone conversations? Has there been such eavesdropping with regard to conversations between lawyers and their clients or in other respects? If so, what procedures are used to supervise this eavesdropping?

Senator GREENWOOD - I have some information on and some knowledge of the matters to which Senator Murphy has referred; but I feel that I cannot take the matter as far as he has asked me to take it and therefore that, to obtain such further information as he wants, the question should go on the notice paper so that a considered answer can be supplied. I understand that currently a prosecution is pending in respect of which much of the evidence to be given depends upon information that was received as a result of tapping a telephone conversation in some way. As I understand it, that is the allegation that has been made. Whether or not such tapping is consistent with the law of the Territory of Papua New Guinea I am unable to say. All I can say is that the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act which we have in force in Australia does not apply in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I have read Press reports that action is being contemplated urgently by the Chief Minister of the Territory. I have had referred to me matters relating to the prosecution to which Senator Murphy has referred, and I have taken them up with the Minister for External Territories. But at this point of time I am unable to say how far those inquiries have advanced. I suggest that if Senator Murphy wants further information he can obtain it appropriately by a question directed to the Minister for External Territories.

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