Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police. The action I am seeking is in relation to a matter that was raised by Wayne Gatt of the Police Association Victoria with respect to the costs of telephone triangulation, also known as pinging. Triangulation is a valuable police investigative tool that can be used to determine the location of a mobile handset in real time. We know that often when cars are stolen or when houses are broken into mobile phones are taken. By sending a ‘ping’ to the phone, the network provider can calculate the approximate location of the handset and return a result with an area map and current coordinates.
Unfortunately the telecommunications companies are charging police sometimes exorbitant sums of money to provide this service. There are significant constraints on our police and their ability to investigate crime and to find missing persons by these budgetary constraints. Often in the metropolitan areas they are able to use Optus and Vodafone, which offer a far cheaper service; in the regional areas they are limited to using Telstra, which will charge $500 for one triangulation, successful or not. The other telcos charge a lot less — for example, Optus charges $4.90. In the regional areas this is a particularly difficult thing.
I am suggesting that no-one should profit from crime or misfortune in this way, particularly not Telstra. I am calling on the minister to examine and address this issue and look at the disproportionate costs that are certainly putting Victorians at risk and really inhibiting police from doing their job, due to budgetary constraints.
I thank the member for her question on this important issue. This type of location based technology is of great importance in assisting Victoria Police in a variety of investigative cases.
The authorisation for Victoria Police to access telecommunications data is granted under the Commonwealth Telecommunications (Inception and Access) Act 1979.
In particular, sections 178 and 178A which pertain to enforcement of criminal law and locating missing persons respectively. All data service costs charged by the Telecommunications companies are paid by Victoria Police. I am informed that the fees range from $5 to $3800 depending on the service and the time taken to retrieve the requested data.
All data requests are audited annually by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. Access to reasonably priced telecommunications services is important to everyone, and I intend to raise this matter with the Commonwealth Government.
I can assure you that the Government will ensure that Victoria Police has the power and resources it needs to reduce harm in the community and keep Victorians safe.