Telecommunications interception will be an important investigative tool for Western Australian police to use in the fight against serious crime, according to Police Minister Bob Wiese.
With the Telecommunications Interception Bill being passed through Parliament today, Mr Wiese said the WA Police Service would now have the same powers of interception as other law enforcement agencies throughout Australia.
The Minister said the Coalition Government was committed to better law enforcement in this State and police access to telecommunications was fundamental to monitor criminal activity through telephones, facsimile machines, computer systems, such as the Internet, and mobile phones.
"This legislation which will give police an essential crime-fighting weapon to counter serious criminal acts, such as murder, kidnapping and the trafficking of drugs," he said.
"The legislation will also enable police to open the door on serious criminal activities in this State and I am sure those who flout the law will find their operations significantly curtailed."
Mr Wiese said Federal Police had been using telecommunications interception since 1979 and in 1987 those powers were extended - through Commonwealth legislation - to include any State police service which met the stringent Federal safeguards and protection.
"Similar telecommunications interception legislation to this Bill has been operating in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for about six years," he said.
Mr Wiese said WA's legislation recognised community concerns on privacy and confidentiality and included strict judicial guidelines and legislative requirements, which were:
· a warrant to conduct intercepts must be considered and approved by a judge;
· a warrant would be revoked if the conditions for its issue were not met or no longer applied;
· the destruction of any records of intercepts when the investigation and relevant proceedings has been completed; and -
· the investigating team must maintain comprehensive records for the scrutiny of the Police Commissioner, Police Minister and the Federal Minister.
Mr Wiese said the State Ombudsman would also be required to inspect the interception records of the WA police and report to the Federal Minister, the Police Minister and Parliament.
"While the establishment of this legislation is an important crime-fighting tool, proper safeguards have been put in place to ensure accountability and confidentiality at all times," he said.
"Any person who breaches those safeguards by divulging information will face a two-year gaol term."
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595