Senate votes no on TrapWire motion

The motion would have required the Australian government to say whether it uses the US surveillance system.

The Senate today voted down a motion asking the government whether the US surveillance system TrapWire is being used in Australia. The measure by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was rejected by voice vote on Wednesday.

After the vote, Ludlam said he didn’t understand why the government opposed the motion. “It simply asks, yes or no, whether or not these systems are deployed anywhere in Australia,” Ludlam said after the vote. “It doesn’t make any accusations.”

Ludlam said Labor should explain “exactly why the government is voting against a fairly straightforward motion …”

Recently leaked documents by Wikileaks revealed the TrapWire program, a surveillance system that uses data from surveillance cameras to predict potential criminal activity.

"TrapWire is operating in parts of the UK, Canada and the USA,” Ludlam said in a statement yesterday. “Its features are reputed to include the ability to centralise and aggregate data from public surveillance cameras and share information across networks. Is it being used in Australia?"

The motion called on the government to "Confirm whether the TrapWire system is deployed anywhere in Australia"; "Confirm if Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have access to, or have in the past used, information provided by foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies using the TrapWire system"; and "Confirm if the Australian government or its law enforcement and intelligence agencies have held discussions about acquiring the TrapWire system for use by government entities here."

Ludlam told Computerworld Australia that he plans to send formal questions to the Federal Police, ASIO, the Quarantine and Inspection Service, the Department of Defence and Customs and Border Protection. They are "the agencies that we thought are the most likely to be deploying or contemplate deploying the system."

Ludlam planned to send the questions this afternoon, he said. By convention, responses are due in 30 calendar days. "During the September sittings, we should have some answers back."

"I'm disappointed that the Senate has voted to keep itself ignorant, particularly the Opposition," Ludlam told us. "I mean, the government may have something to hide—we don't know that yet—but I would have thought the Opposition" would be more supportive, he said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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