Disallowance of Surveillance Devices Amendment Regulation

The Labor Government yesterday introduced a regulation providing the Independent Commission against Corruption with extraordinary powers.

Leader of the Opposition Mark Speakman said the powers that are being granted through the Surveillance Devices Amendment (ICAC) Regulation 2023 will have enormous scope beyond any one set of recordings. The Regulation would allow ICAC, for example, to use or publish existing or new surveillance recordings, made by private citizens without a warrant on any matter, for the next 2.4 years.

There are also questions relating to the ICAC’s conduct with respect to the potentially illegal records. It is unclear how the ICAC could have formed the view that the records are “of interest to an ongoing investigation” (as stated by the Attorney General yesterday in Parliament) without breaking the law.

“This is a case of reckless drafting by the Labor Government, and requires serious repair,” said Mr Speakman.

Shadow Attorney General Alister Henskens expressed strong disappointment in the Government choosing to introduce these powers through regulation, rather than putting them into the ICAC Bill which was being debated in Parliament on the same day.

“This approach meant that there would not be any parliamentary debate on powers that have been described in the media as ‘incredible’ and robbed the Parliament of the ability to amend and improve the drafting,” said Mr Henskens. “The Government could have easily moved an amendment to incorporate these changes in the ICAC Bill that we were already dealing with in Parliament, which was how the only comparable precedent was dealt with in 2009 by the previous Labor Government.”

The Opposition will support the disallowance motion of this Regulation, but will consider any amendment to the ICAC Bill that puts any new powers in firmer legal context with appropriate thresholds and safeguards. This approach would also allow proper debate in Parliament. Neither the Government nor the ICAC has identified the subject of the investigation in the matter to do with the recording.

“The Opposition will also be writing to the ICAC Inspector, requesting an urgent investigation into the leaking of information about an ICAC investigation reported to be related to this regulation and if the ICAC has dealt with the subject recording in accordance with the law,” Mr Henskens concluded.

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