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Moroney's Big Brother laws

Sydney Morning Herald | July 22, 2007

POLICE will need a host of invasive forensic powers such as iris-scanning technology and a DNA database - which could include innocent people - not only to fight terrorism but also lesser crimes such as car theft, the NSW Police Commissioner has warned.

Ken Moroney yesterday dismissed civil liberties concerns as he repeated a call for enhanced identification checks when people buy mobile phone SIM cards and confirmed police might soon have expanded powers to collect DNA.

"I hear oppositions that these are breaches or potential breaches of civil liberties," Mr Moroney said. "Let me say this, every police officer [has] to be concerned about the civil liberties of everybody - not just a small few. We have to be concerned about the civil liberty of being able to leave your car on the street without it being stolen.

"I've got to be concerned about the civil liberty of not having your house broken into when you leave it. I've got to be concerned about the ultimate civil liberty of being able to go about your business without being assaulted, or the ultimate breach of civil liberties murder. And so I dismiss these issues."

Asked if police would keep a database of the DNA of people found innocent of crime, Mr Moroney, who will retire at the end of next month, said: "Well, that's the purpose of a database to keep within it issues that go to the identification of people.

"But bear in mind it's not only about identifying those responsible for crime. Indeed in the case of DNA it is about eliminating the innocent as well."

Pressed on whether he wanted the DNA of those ruled out as suspects kept in a database, he said: "I suppose there's a general no to that. But it may well be subject to the debate that needs to occur within the Parliament that there may well be good and cogent reasons why that ought to be the case. That's part of the debate that needs to be had."

The proposals follow a NSW cabinet decision to give police the powers to demand DNA hair samples and mouth swabs from suspects arrested for any offence, not just serious ones such as murder, sexual assault and robbery.

The cabinet decision will restrict the number of bail applications for serious offences and the maximum holding period for suspected terrorists will be extended from six to 30 days.

The Premier, Morris Iemma, would not comment on Mr Moroney's remarks yesterday but said the Government's new anti-terrorism offences would help police crack down on criminals. He said the changes in bail laws would bring local courts in line with the Supreme Court.

Mr Moroney backed away from DNA sampling for minor crimes, despite the proposed laws. Samples would be taken from those suspected of involvement in "a higher order of crime, serious crime Certainly I'm dismissing any view that police are going to be using it [DNA testing] for lower order issues."

But when asked if police might take DNA from a spray can used for graffiti, he said: "Yes, the possibilities are endless. It's an important tool." The Herald revealed last month there was a huge backlog of DNA to be analysed for investigations.

Mr Moroney also left open the option of a national database of every Australian's eyes. "Anything that goes to aid the identification of crime at all levels has to be welcomed," he said. "That could be one of the options. What I'm simply saying is that policing for the future has to turn on more than just police numbers and the visibility of the police."

He said mobile phones had been used to incite violence at the Cronulla riots, but conceded most of the message senders had been identified using existing laws.

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