Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications - Senate Estimates - 30 May 2013
Senator Ludlam asked: How many agencies are actually duly authorised to use notices in this way? Who else can issue these?
Mr Rizvi: The legislation does not specify any particular agency.
Senator LUDLAM: That is true.
Mr Rizvi: The legislation indicates that carriers and carriage service providers are required to cooperate with agencies that have responsibilities for enforcing the criminal law, and laws imposing pecuniary penalties, protecting the public revenue and safeguarding national security.
Senator LUDLAM: Are you able to provide us with a list of all the agencies that that would include? I would understand that to include, for example, state policing and anticorruption authorities as well, for example, and not just federal agencies.
Mr Rizvi: Yes, it could cover state authorities that have those responsibilities.
Senator LUDLAM: That is dozens and dozens of agencies, is it not?
Mr Rizvi: I cannot be specific about the numbers.
Senator LUDLAM: Could you for us, on notice? Since the department has taken carriage of this issue, if I ask you how many agencies and which agencies are authorised to knock out content online with or without an accompanying press statement, of their own volition, against no list, no criteria, no categories and no accountability, could you provide us with a list of the agencies who are able to do that?
Mr Rizvi: We would have to take that on notice.
Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 does not authorise agencies to undertake specific activities. Rather, it provides for officers or authorities of the Commonwealth and of the States and Territories to seek assistance from carriers and carriage service providers in relation to the following purposes:
(a) enforcing the criminal law and laws imposing pecuniary penalties;
(b) assisting the enforcement of the criminal laws in force in a foreign country;
(c) protecting the public revenue;
(d) safeguarding national security.
Section 313 does not specify particular agencies or the numbers of those agencies that are authorised to seek such assistance. Examples of agencies who seek assistance from carriers and carriage service providers include the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. As requested by the former Minister, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is consulting with a number of agencies on options to improve transparency and accountability in the use of s313 for blocking websites.