ACT News

Aerial surveillance push

Police have suggested that Canberra's new point-to-point speed cameras be linked to unmanned aerial surveillance drones and used to track vehicles of interest to authorities.

The first of the cameras, which use automated number plate recognition technology to calculate a car's average speed and whether it is within the legal limit, are due to be switched on by the end of the year.

But minutes of a Government point-to-point steering committee meeting held in June last year show that police recommended a broader range of uses for the cameras.

According to the minutes, which were issued to the Opposition under the Freedom of Information Act, a senior police officer said the cameras could be used for other purposes.

''He noted that the use of P2P ANPR cameras to detect unregistered, stolen and other vehicles of interest would provide ongoing and longer term benefits for the project,'' the minutes said.

The officer also advised that, ''a specific benefit would derive if the P2P cameras were linked to UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] which could track vehicles of interest.''

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Another meeting attendee said revenue projections showed that the cost of installing the system should be paid back within six to 12 months.

''He noted that P2P systems had relatively low infringement rates, and there may be scope to reduce the tolerance level to increase infringement numbers,'' the minutes said.

But the committee was advised the NRMA would object to such moves because of speedometer inaccuracies.

The Canberra Liberals and some civil libertarians oppose the cameras partly because of fears that they could be misused by authorities.

Opposition transport services spokesman Alistair Coe said his party had concerns about the cameras' effectiveness and their potential to be used for mass surveillance.

''Talk of using unmanned aerial vehicles in collaboration with speed cameras I think is going far beyond the stated scope,'' Mr Coe said.

The Opposition will today introduce into the Assembly a series of amendments to draft point-to-point camera laws. The amendments would include a moratorium on fines being issued during the first few months of the cameras' operation.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the Bill before the Assembly only permitted the devices to be used for transport law enforcement, or for a purpose allowed under another law.

The Government would propose amendments to clarify the purposes for which the cameras could be used and to apply privacy principles.

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