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The ATO Could Be Granted Permission To Bug Your Phone

The Australian Taxation Office could soon be given invasive surveillance powers, as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews aims to update laws that date back to the 1960s.

Yesterday, Andrews released a discussion paper about potential updates to surveillance laws.

“The government’s proposed reforms will better protect individuals’ information and data, ensure law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to investigate serious crimes and threats to security, and clearly identify which agencies can seek access to specific information,” Andrews said.

The current framework is needlessly complicated, running at over 1,000 pages of legislation, with over 100 amendment made over the years, and 21 Commonwealth, state, and territory agencies currently allowed to use electronic surveillance.

Andrews wants to add more, including the ATO.

“With respect to the ATO, access to telecommunications data would support or, in some cases, potentially replace expensive, resource-intensive and intrusive physical surveillance operations,” the discussion paper said.

“ATO experience demonstrates that telecommunications data would also be a critical tool in excluding non-involved individuals from lines of inquiry, or in establishing a relationship between an original person of interest being investigated (for example, for tax fraud) and a larger group of individuals committing serious criminal offences (such as large-scale fraud against the Commonwealth).”

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