Queensland crime authority pushing phone-tapping powers again

The Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is lobbying to give the state's law enforcement agencies more powers to intercept telecommunications.The commission today released a report claiming that Queensland's current telecommunications laws were impeding police investigations into organised crime networks.

The Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is lobbying to give the state's law enforcement agencies more powers to intercept telecommunications.

The commission today released a report claiming that Queensland's current telecommunications laws were impeding police investigations into organised crime networks.

"The absence of TI powers severely impedes the capability of Queensland law enforcement to make serious inroads into organised crime markets and effectively target key organised crime identities," said the CMC in its report released today.

The commission said that while the tactics used by criminal networks were becoming more sophisticated, it was getting harder for law enforcement agencies to target them "due to a lack of [Telecommunication Interception] capabilities".

"Queensland remains the only state in Australia that is without this vital tool in combating organised crime and corruption," said a spokesperson for the CMC today.

Attempts to secure more telecommunication interception powers for Queensland's law enforcement authorities have so far been unsuccessful.

Queensland National party opposition leader, Lawrence Springborg, introduced a private member's bill, the Telecommunication (interception) Queensland Bill 2003 to increase police powers to tap phones for serious offences such as drug trafficking in October 2003. However, the bill was rejected after it failed to attract bi-partisan support.

The CMC today said that there had been several changes in Queensland organised crime environment -- especially relating to electronic crime -- since the Queensland Crime Commission (QCC) and the Queensland Police Service (QPS) published its last major report on organised crime in the state: the 1999 Project Krystal report.

According to the CMC over the last year computer fraud has increased by 24 percent and credit card fraud by nine percent.

"It is reasonable to suggest that, had TI been available directly to Queensland law enforcement, the activities of some of these criminal identities might have been curtailed and significant harm and expense avoided," the report said.

In an attempt to curb the escalating rate of credit card fraud, some banks have implemented customer security measures to protect cardholders against fraudulent use of new cards. However, the report said that measures such as these are "not failsafe", and criminals are exhibiting increasing levels of sophistication and using better technology.

"Criminals are devising methods to counter these controls so rapidly that constant vigilance by law enforcement, both in Queensland and nationally, is warranted," said a spokesperson for the CMC.

A number of forms of card skimming have been detected in Queensland, including the use of memory sticks and "ghost keys" to download data from computers at Internet cafes.

Fraud is increasingly making its presence felt on the Internet. Stolen or counterfeit credit cards are increasingly being used in online auction houses such as eBay. During 2003 more than 600 people were reportedly victims of such fraud on eBay Australia.

A CMC spokesperson said the government is currently reviewing the request for TI power in Queensland.

In an attempt to lower the incidence of card skimming, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Visa, American Express and major banks have established a pilot database to store details of skimmed cards and locations where they have been used.

There were 28,768 reported fraud offences in Queensland during FY2003. Of the fraud offences recorded that year, 739 were by computer -- a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

A CMC spokesperson said the state's government was reviewing its request for greater interception powers.

The Queensland government is also considering some of the recommendations by the Parliament of Victoria on fraud and electronic commerce.

These recommendations included the provision of additional resources to give fraud-related training to police; the purchase of new technologies necessary to combat high-tech crime; the establishment of a unit with expertise to deal with complex financial crimes that involve small value losses outside the scope of major fraud investigation; and the development of clear guidelines for working with other state and federal agencies.