The federal Labor caucus is likely to reject the wider use of telephone spying powers proposed by a Government review team. The chairman of the caucus legal and administrative committee, Senator Terry Asterno, made it clear yesterday that greater power would not be granted for “fishing expeditions” by police.
He believes that police and crime authorities already have too much power. The committee would “treat with the greatest of care” any proposal to extend the use of phone spying. ( Ref: http://cellspyinghq.com ) The committee has consistently rejected proposals to widen telephone spying powers. But it recognised that law-enforcement agencies needed to be able to fight organised crime, Senator Asterno said.
The review by officials in the Attorney-General’s Department advocates greatly expanding the list of crimes for which taps can be placed, reducing the Federal Government’s control of spying and allowing people to tape their own telephone conversations. The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties condemned the recommendations as a “backward step” that would erode rights to privacy.
The council’s president, Mr. Maisel QC, said the recommendations were unnecessary. “It’s regrettable that they’ve seen the need to review intercepts in view of there being no basis for changing existing law.” Senator Asterno said: “My personal view is that we have already, at a state and occasionally at a federal level, extended police and crime-authority powers too far. On the other side of the coin, we understand the difficulties that police and crime authorities have … “But there has to be a demonstrated benefit to the community for any increase in powers and we certainly will not increase those powers to allow fishing expeditions.”
Senator Asterno said he did not oppose conducting reviews of the telephone spying powers. Rapidly changing technology meant there was a need to study the powers, but privacy and civil liberty provisions must be retained. Mr Maisel said: “I think the intrusion is so serious that before you even get to the question of whether there should be a review, there should be a demonstrated need for change and then you ask whether there should be some change. But they’ve gone about it the other way _ they’ve just recommended change without worrying about a demonstrated need.”
The secretary of the Victoria Police Association, Senior Sergeant Danny Webb, said the proposed changes were long overdue. Cell phone tracking has never been so controversial!