OMBUDSMAN’S REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED FOR GREATER OVERSIGHT

OMBUDSMAN’S REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED FOR GREATER OVERSIGHT Main Image

28 April 2021

SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY 
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES

MARK DREYFUS

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS 

 

OMBUDSMAN’S REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED FOR GREATER OVERSIGHT

Today’s findings that ACT Policing have had “a cavalier approach to exercising telecommunications data powers” highlights the need for the government to urgently act on changes to metadata laws, as recommended by the bipartisan Intelligence and Security Committee over six months ago.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has found that “internal procedures at ACT Policing and a cavalier approach to exercising telecommunications data powers resulted in a culture that did not promote compliance with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.”

Labor recognises that it is essential our intelligence and security agencies have the powers and tools to ensure that crimes are appropriately investigated.

But it is also imperative that agencies work in accordance with the legislation that governs their use.

In that task, agencies are assisted by laws that are clear, easy to follow and subject to robust and effective oversight.

That is why a report released by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended significant changes to the metadata laws in October last year. That report has been ignored ever since by Peter Dutton and Karen Andrews.

Labor and Liberal members of the Committee made 22 bipartisan recommendations to improve the metadata laws so that incidents like those exposed by the Commonwealth Ombudsman do not occur in the first place.

Obtaining evidence unlawfully is bad in its own right. And, as the Ombudsman makes clear, it can also undermine the ability of agencies to secure convictions – and even result in convictions being set aside. In other words, these kind of practices leave the community less safe.

The Government’s failure to respond to, let alone implement, the Intelligence and Security Committee’s bipartisan recommendations is grossly irresponsible.

Labor calls on the Government to act urgently to implement the Committee’s bipartisan recommendations, including by ensuring that:

  • only officers who have completed a compulsory training program and who have the requisite experience, knowledge and skills should be authorised to access telecommunications data;
  • significant improvements are made to record-keeping and reporting requirements; and
  • there are national guidelines on the operation of the metadata laws by law enforcement agencies to ensure greater clarity, consistency and security in relation to requests for – and the collection and management of – telecommunications data.

 

WEDNESDAY, 28 APRIL 2021