The government’s national anti-corruption commission will be able to intercept messages sent on encrypted apps WhatsApp like and Signal, the attorney-general has confirmed, while clarifying union officials will not be immune and political donors will not be targeted.
“Interception is available and the commission will have the same powers available to it, subject to warrant, that the police and our intelligence agency have,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told the ABC’s insiders on Sunday morning.
He refused to say whether the government’s move to restrict public hearings in its national anti-corruption commission was Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s idea, saying only that “some legal experts think this is exactly right. Others expressed the contrary view.”
Asked if politicians sending WhatsApp or Signal messages should “watch out”, Dreyfus said: “Everyone needs to watch out. We don’t want corrupt activity infecting our system of government.”
He said the establishment of the “powerful and transparent” commission would not be partisan and was “not an exercise in political payback” [or] the way to go after political opponents”.
“There is overwhelming support across the parliament for the model we’ve put forward,” Dreyfus said.
Lobby groups who donated money to political parties with the aim of influencing government decisions would not be the target of the commission, he said.
“It’s possible for anyone to make suggestions to the government, to opposition parties, to other participants in our political system to put forward private policies – that’s to be encouraged,” the attorney-general said.
“That’s what an open democracy has in it. That’s not a corrupt activity.”