Bill tripled for Queensland Police phone taps

Initial $14 million funding explodes to $44.5 million over five years for Queensland telecommunications interception

The Queensland Government has pledged to $44.5 million to the state departments of Police as well as Justice and Attorney-General for the implementation of a permanent telecommunications interception capability as part of the government's 2010-2011 Budget.

The amount required for the system has tripled since Computerworld Australia last reported on the plans in March, when the government pledged $14 million for implementing the required taps and establishing an electronic collections unit to supply the data.

As with the initial, $14 million funding, the new allocation will be delivered over five years, with $13.42 million of that going to the Crime and Misconduct Commission to help continue operations of the electronic collections unit. The remainder will be allocated to the Queensland Police Service for the implementation and ongoing operation the system.

The new permanent telecommunications interception capability follows the passing of the Telecommunications Interception Act 2009 in State Parliament, and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2009 in Federal Parliament, which provided police with greater powers to apply for interception warrants subject to validation by the state's Public Interest Monitor.

However, particular aspects of the Federal Government bill - including a requirement to destroy intercepted data "as soon as it is no longer required" - were considered short-sighted by leading forensic experts.

According to budget papers, the new powers and telecommunications interception capability are targeted at "major illicit drug trafficking and other commodity-based criminal markets", as well as involvement in other tactically dangerous police operations. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has also said it help to intercept activities relating to "organised crime, predatory paedophilia networks, corruption and premeditated violent crimes", as well as to stem potential "bikie gang related violence".

In the year to 30 June 2008, Australian authorities made 3254 interceptions compared to roughly 170,000 in the United States.

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