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Review of the Regulation of Access to Communications

Since 1994 there have been four major reports dealing with telecommunications interception.

They were:

  • The 1994 review by Mr P. Barrett into the Long Term Cost Effectiveness of Telecommunications Interception;
  • The 1999 review by Mr D. Boucher of Interception Arrangements under section 332R of the Telecommunications Act 1997;
  • The 1999 review by Mr P. Ford of Telecommunications Interception Policy; and
  • The 2003 review by Mr T. Sherman AO of Named Person Warrants and other matters.

I am indebted to those reviewers and many of the issues canvassed in my report find their antecedents in those reviews.

As part of my review I invited submissions from the public. That was done through an advertisement placed in the Canberra Times and The Australian newspapers on 2 April 2005. I also wrote to those parties which had demonstrated an interest in previous reviews and in the legislative processes related to the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979. As a result I received some 31 submissions. A small number of those submissions were classified and are therefore not identified in the listing of submissions at Attachment 1. I also met with a number of individuals and organisations including the major carriers, security and law enforcement agencies and with privacy interests, to elaborate issues where I felt that was necessary. I am grateful to all those who have contributed.

I should also acknowledge my particular gratitude and indebtedness to Ms Catherine Smith and Ms Raewyn Miners of the Attorney-General’s Department for their unstinting assistance and very willing cooperation. There are of course many other officers both of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts that will recognise in the report the contribution they made. I am grateful to all of them.

It is inevitable that there will be further reviews. Indeed given the rate of changes within the industry and within society more generally I believe that there is a strong case for regular reviews, say at three yearly intervals. The complexity and significance of the issues makes it problematic for unversed persons to do justice to them within a reasonable time frame. I am not a fan of committees but there may be advantage in there being a standing representative committee structure which could do or at least provide support for future reviews.

Anthony S Blunn AO
August 2005

Date Published: Wednesday, 31 August 2005