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Inquiry to examine Australian internet, phone surveillance

A Senate committee will examine internet and telephone surveillance by law enforcement and security agencies after Labor backed a Greens motion for an inquiry on Thursday.

The motion was passed after several recent unsuccessful attempts to launch similar inquiries. It was not supported by the government.

Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the inquiry would break "the complicity of silence about surveillance in Australia".

It would also open up an opportunity for Australian experts, agencies and individuals to participate in "a conversation of what surveillance is necessary and proportionate".

The committee will be charged with a comprehensive review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 in reference to recommendations of a 2008 report conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission titled "For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice".


It will also examine recommendations from a report tabled earlier this year by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. That inquiry was tasked with examining more than 40 potential reforms of Australia's national security legislation.

"A review of the deeply flawed Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act is well overdue," Senator Ludlam said.

"Amended no less than 45 times since the events of 11 September 2001, it is the tool used to bug and snoop on Australians."

Senator Ludlam noted that since 2007, warrantless surveillance of Australians through access to telecommunications data has been possible, with requests of nearly 300,000 in the past financial year.

"Since the revelations of Edward Snowden, the Senate has repeatedly voted to avoid knowing what is going on until today, failing in its primary duty as a parliament."

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