The Queensland government has tipped $14 million into wiretapping capabilities to support new phone interception powers handed to police last year.
An electronic collections unit will be established by July this year to supply the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) and law enforcement agencies with “long-term telecommunications intercept capabilities”. It will replace an interim system that was created after the state parliament passed the Telecommunications Interception Act 2009.
Attorney-General, Cameron Dick, said the funds — allocated over five years including $605,000 released this year — will be used to fight serious crime, corruption and paedophilia.
"Telecommunication interception has long been recognised as an appropriate and effective tool for fighting serious and organised crime, both within Australia and throughout the world," Dick said.
"With these laws, Queensland's crime-fighting bodies can independently apply for telecommunications interception warrants when investigating serious crime and corruption.”
The government would back up the introduction of the powers with funding to enable the CMC to set up long-term telecommunications intercept capabilities in conjunction with the Australian Crime Commission, he said.
The CMC will be able to wiretap phones without police intervention which, the Attorney-General said, would reduce the risk of investigations being compromised. He said the interception laws are bound by “strict civil liberties and compliance safeguards”.
Director of the forensic computer lab at University of South Australia, Jill Slay, who also undertakes work with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and other government agencies, said last year that calls for intercepted data to be destroyed as soon as possible were shortsighted.
She said data is valuable intelligence for crime fighting and national security against threats from non-state actors or nation states.
In the year to 30 June 2008, Australian authorities made 3254 interceptions compared to roughly 170,000 in the United States.