Sshh, the Government's listening

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Sshh, the Government's listening

Proposed changes to the Government’s existing Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 has civil liberty groups up in arms over what they believe are gross breaches of peoples' civil rights.

Proposed changes to the Government’s existing Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 has a leading civil liberty group up in arms over what it believes are gross breaches of the publics' civil rights.

The Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006, will allow any Government agency to apply to the Attorney-General for an interception warrant from a judge or nominated member to demand emails and text messages, and to clandestinely recorded any phone converations for the purpose of investigating any offence punishable by a maximum period of seven years.

The criterion for the use of these powers is that the issuing authority has to be satisfied there are reasonable grounds for suspecting a particular person and that the information obtained by the interception was likely to assist with the investigation, and the Agency has to have exhausted all other practicable methods of identification of telecommunications services used or likely to be used by the suspect.

According to Law Council of Australia president John North --if the bill goes through-- innocent people would have their conversations recorded for the first time; this includes journalists, lawyers, doctors and even the clergy.

“Warrants can be applied for cases of suspected terrorism and any crime that carries a jail term of seven or more years. This could be anything to do with ASIC violations to social security service violations," said North.

"The warrant will enable these agencies to get a hold of information regardless if you are suspected of any crime. They only want to access information to their suspect,” he said.

According to North this Amendment is an incursion on the rights to privacy, as stated in Article 17 on the International Covenant on Civil and political rights to which Australia is a party. He said under the Covenant, no-one shall be subjected either to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy family home or correspondence nor to unlawful attacks on his honour or reputation.

“This Australian government has said trust us we will only use this Act for serious matters, but the proposed act allows a huge number of government people to eavesdrop on civilians,” said North.


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