The decision to give the NSW corruption watchdog powers to use illegally obtained recordings until the end of 2025 has been blasted as a “reckless, outrageous, (and) over-the-top power grab” by the opposition.
On Wednesday, NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley said he had approved a request by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which would allow it to obtain, possess, publish and communicate recordings of private conversations made by a third-party, with the amendment put in place until December 31, 2025.
Under the NSW Surveillance Devices Act 2007, it is illegal to record private conversations the permission of those involved, with offences of up to five years in jail and/or $55,000.
The request was made after the watchdog’s chief commissioner John Hatzistergos wrote to Mr Daley and said ICAC may have obtained certain evidence during an undisclosed investigation which may have been in contravention of the act.
However, Opposition Leader Mark Speakman questioned the arrangement, which he said gave the ICAC too much power.
He said the regulation change would allow ICAC to use its new powers for the next Two-and-a-half years, regardless of the investigation or subject matter.
“This is reckless drafting. It should have been subject to proper scrutiny of parliament where we could have finessed the drafting if it was thought appropriate,” he said.
“You have an ICAC and a government that have made this reckless, outrageous, outlandish and over-the-top power grab.”
Shadow attorney general Alister Henskens said the government failed to act in a “transparent fashion,” and called for further public scrutiny.
“These matters have to be dealt with incredibly sensitively and we’re alive to that,” Mr Henskens said.
“We in no sense want to see a legitimate corruption investigation compromised in any fashion but there’s a number of competing public interests here.”
A spokeswoman for the ICAC said a “closer review” was needed to see whether there had been a contravention of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007.
“The commission has not undertaken such a review at this time. Instead, in order to avoid any doubt about the commission’s ability to lawfully hold, publish or communicate any of the records, the commission sought legislative amendment,” she said.
“The commission considers it has acted appropriately and in accordance with relevant legal requirements.
“The commission informed the Inspector of the ICAC of this matter prior to making the request to Government.”
Mr Daley’s office has been contacted for comment.