Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. In recent decades there has been an explosion in the use of telecommunication technologies in Australia. Each year, more and more of us use mobile phones and the internet. It is the way we interact in the 21st century. It is the way we shop, we bank and we communicate. Activities that used to take place face-to-face are now happening in cyberspace. Unfortunately the criminals have followed suit, creating a new category of crime—cybercrime. I am sure all members would hear many stories of cybercrime in their own electorates each year. From scams and fraud to the more serious incidents we see on the news, this is a growing area of concern and one which we need to deal with.
Countries around the world are coming to terms with these challenges. Given the nature of the internet and the nature of 21st century telecommunications, there has been a focus on dealing with these matters at a transnational level. A landmark agreement on dealing with this issue happened at the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime—otherwise known as the Budapest Convention. It is the first international treaty on crimes committed either against or via computer networks. In particular the Budapest Convention deals with online fraud, child pornography and the unauthorised access, use or modification of data stored on computers.
The bill we are debating today facilitates Australia's accession to the Budapest Convention and in the process aims to strengthen Australia's cybercrime legislation and to harmonise our approach with international legislation, fostering a consistent, cooperative approach to tackling this issue. The bill makes amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 and the Criminal Code Act 1995. The main effects of these amendments are: to require carriers and carriage providers to preserve the stored communications and telecommunications data for specific persons when requested by certain domestic agencies or when requested by the Australian Federal Police on behalf of certain foreign countries; to ensure Australian agencies are able to obtain and disclose telecommunications data and stored communications for the purposes of foreign investigation; to provide for extraterritorial operation of certain offences in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act; to amend the computer crime offences in the Criminal Code Act so that they have adequate scope; and to create confidentiality requirements in relation to the authorisations to disclose.
When this legislation was considered by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety some concerns were raised by stakeholders. The main concern was the issue of privacy, with many submissions uneasy with the increased surveillance and information-sharing powers contained within the bill. These are important concerns to raise—particularly where this concerns the government, which does not have a good overall track record when it comes to these matters. The issue of mandatory internet filtering is still a concern for many people in my electorate of Swan, and the government's pursuit of this issue has put Australia on an 'enemies of the internet' watch list in the company of a number of totalitarian regimes—something to consider a day after a dictatorship in Libya was on the brink of collapse.
These submissions have forced the government to clarify a number of privacy matters, and I note that in the Attorney-General's statement of 18 August 2011 he stated:
Preservation notices can’t apply to an entire provider, but only to a person, phone number or email address. Moreover they only apply until a law enforcement agency obtains a warrant to formally access the information and the information is destroyed after 30 days if a warrant is not granted.
The bill does not require ongoing collection and retention of communications. We on this side of the House will be keeping a watchful eye on the Attorney-General to make sure he keeps his commitments.
I draw the attention of the House to a submission from the government of Western Australia that stated:
It is important to note that accession to the Convention should not create further bureaucracy which could act to stifle established links between agencies, particularly those formed at a State level. WA Police already has strong ties with … a number of service providers in attempting to tackle cybercrime. It would be detrimental if accession to the Convention were to erode these links.
I hope this is not another example from this government of a lack of consultation with WA, as was raised consistently in the debate on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (National Regulator) Bill 2011. The government must consult properly with WA and must ensure that this legislation does not undermine the ongoing work of the WA Police in tackling this crime. There is a clause in the Criminal Code which provides that Commonwealth computer offences are not intended to limit or exclude the operation of any law of a state or territory. However, it is up to the government of the day to make sure that this is effectively applied.
Despite flagging these points with the government in this chamber this evening, I will be supporting this legislation. The legislation recognises that criminal policy in this country needs to keep pace with the massive changes we have seen in telecommunications. We need the police to be able to request telecommunications data. Even what we might call traditional crime now often leaves traces on mobile phones and emails. The transnational nature of crime means that more than ever we need to cooperate with international agencies. I spoke about this in more detail during my speech on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Amendment (Registration of Foreign Proceeds of Crime Orders) Bill 2011 during the last parliamentary sitting. There may be some matters to clear up in the Senate, given the speed with which the government has brought the debate forward following the tabling of the Senate inquiry report. The joint select committee made no fewer than 13 recommendations including restrictions on police-to-police cooperation in possible death penalties scenarios without ministerial consent. The committee also recommended that the police should be required to consider the factors included in the mutual assistance act before sharing telecommunications data retrieved during a domestic investigation with foreign counterparts with a view to strengthening protection against data sharing in certain cases. These are areas that may be subject to further consideration in the other place.
However, we support the objectives of this bill and are broadly satisfied that the safeguards in it and other legislation with which it operates are effective. Beyond this legislation there is much we can all do to help tackle cybercrime. It is important to take cybersecurity as seriously, for example, as you would locking your car or your house. When I was at Sevenoaks school in my electorate of Swan in Cannington, I spoke to the students about how important it is for students to protect their personal information online. There were many who thought that by placing photos or personal information on sites such as Facebook they would be secure. Clearly, that is not the case, as we have seen. Cyberbullying is also a related problem, and I am a big supporter of the Carlisle Primary School in my electorate for their anti-cyberbullying stance, which I would encourage other schools to look at as well.
In conclusion, we all have a part to play in tackling cybercrime. I am glad that this is a duty we are taking seriously in the Australian parliament today and I congratulate the other members who have made a contribution to this debate. Thank you.