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Democrats call for Inspector General to investigate spying allegations.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats

Senator Vicki Bourne Defence Spokesperson

12 February 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/053

Democrats call for Inspector General to investigate spying allegations Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, will today give a Notice of Motion calling for the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security to investigate revelations the Federal Government spied on Australians during last year’s MV Tampa stand-off.

“The motion calls for Mr Bill Blick to investigate, with specific reference to events surrounding the Tampa crisis, the use of communications intercepts by the Defence Signals Directorate,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“The Inspector General must also determine whether there are adequate safeguards to ensure such powers are not abused by the Government for political purposes.

“The Australian Democrats are gravely concerned about the apparent use of intelligence services for domestic political gain.

“The monitoring of phone calls is a serious breach of privacy. To use information gained from those calls to formulate political strategy is reprehensible.

“If proven, these allegations constitute an alarming threat not just to personal freedom but to democracy as a whole.

“The Australian public deserve answers.

“The Federal Government’s defence of their actions is inadequate. There are questions as to whether the refugees aboard the Tampa did constitute a threat to national security,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

Democrats’ Defence spokesperson, Senator Vicki Bourne said, “Today’s revelation comes in the midst of the Howard Government's attempts to expand the powers of intelligence agencies. If the Tampa allegations are true, it shows the Government cannot be trusted with the broad powers it is seeking.

“The Government's proposed 'national security' legislation would give it greater powers to intrude upon the lives of ordinary citizens, and anyone who revealed the misuse of those powers could be subject to imprisonment.

“That is a totally unacceptable state of affairs in a modern democracy,” concluded Senator Bourne.

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