Search and Surveillance Bill still threatens civil liberties

Despite improvements, the Search and Surveillance Bill reported back to Parliament today is still a serious threat to our civil liberties, Green Party human rights spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

The Justice and Electoral Committee’s commentary on the Bill, which was tabled in Parliament today, contains a critical minority report from the Green Party.

“The Bill removes a person’s traditional right to silence when questioned by the Police,” said Mr Locke.

Previously, the Serious Fraud Office could require people to answer questions on serious business fraud. Now, through a system of Examination Orders, the Bill extends this power to the Police for all serious crime.

“The Examination Orders apply not only to a suspect. The suspect’s spouse, friends, and colleagues will also be required to answer questions or face a year in jail,” said Mr Locke.

“To make matters worse, the Bill provides for Production Orders, whereby a range of government departments, not just the Police, can require people to produce documents, again under threat of a year in jail.

“The Bill allows search and surveillance warrants to be granted to dozens of state agencies from the Food Safety Authority to the Reserve Bank, none of whom have complaints bodies with anything like the rigour and accountability of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.”

The Green Party is also worried about the extent of state surveillance authorised by the Bill. The most alarming provision is one which allows Police to be granted warrants to install a covert camera in people’s houses.

“This is an unacceptable intrusion into people’s personal space,” said Mr Locke.

“Privacy in one’s own home should be sacrosanct.”

Mr Locke also considers media organisations should be worried by the Search and Surveillance Bill. While they have the right to claim privilege, such claims will often be heard after the Police have raided media offices and taken material identifying confidential sources.

Read the full Green Party Minority report on the Bill