Australia set to join Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime

The adoption of the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 will pave the way for Australia to join the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, according to Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

The Bill was passed by the Senate to address some of the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety, including data privacy protections and assistance given to foreign law enforcement agencies.

The Bill amends the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Australia joins 34 other nations that have agreed to the Europe Convention, including the United States and Germany. It is the first international treaty on crimes committed via the Internet and other computer networks, dealing with computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.

Roxon said that with the passing of the legislation, and Australia set to join the Europe Convention, police would be assisted in tracking cyber criminals around the world.

“Cybercrime is a growing threat that touches all aspects of modern life. It poses complex policy and law enforcement challenges, partly due to the transnational nature of the Internet,” she said.

“In particular, this [Bill] will help combat criminal offences relating to forgery, fraud, child pornography, and infringement of copyright and intellectual property.”

However, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has raised concerns about the passing of the Bill and Australia joining the Europe Convention.

According to Ludlam, the Bill would open the door to Australian’s private data being shared with agencies overseas.

"This proposed law goes well beyond the already controversial European convention on which it is based, and no explanation has been provided as to why,” he said.

“The European Convention doesn't require ongoing collection and retention of communications, but the Australian Bill does. It also leaves the door open for Australia to assist in prosecutions which could lead to the death penalty overseas.”

According to Ludlam, the Greens have recommend changes to the Bill including changing the requirement for communications retention and clarifying the Ombudsman's powers to inspect and audit compliance.

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