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CAN THEY HACK IT? Victoria Police refer Age hacking evidence to federal prosecutors

JohnthorntonprosecutorFeared federal prosecutor John Thornton, who is in charge pending the appointment of a new federal director of public prosecutions (the previous bloke recently became a judge) has a lot on his plate, with people smugglers, drug barons and terrorists carrying on their dreadful trade.

Surely one of the tasty morsels for the tough-on-crime no-nonsense federal prosecutor is the opportunity to bring rogue journalists at The Age newspaper to justice over credible allegations (essentially admitted in the pages of their own journal) that they illegally penetrated a voter database administered by the Victorian Electoral Commission and entrusted to the political parties.

It contains a whole range of confidential information, including date of birth, private phone numbers and addresses that could be very easily misused by identity thieves and rogue journalists.

As the Australian’s scoop-meister John Ferguson and the delightfully named Chip Le Grand reported today, The Age’s three journalists, believed to include the bright, award-winning and ambitious scribe Nick McKenzie, journo stalwart and lefty spear-chucker Royce Millar are ensnared in a trap of their own making. Ben Schneiders also hacked in for researching a yarn or too, and reputedly searched on folk unrelated to a story.

Media industry insiders still express shock and incredulity at the brazen nature of their alleged crimes, given that it occurred during the UK tabloids voicemail hacking scandal that Fairfax were rather gleefully reporting on at the time, given that it involved the parent company of their local competitors.

Ferguson revealed today that the Victoria Police had concluded their investigation and had referred the evidence of wrongdoing to the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions in July. The delay is not unusual for white-collar offences, legal insiders have explained to VEXNEWS, and yet we cannot help but feel the urgency of the mission to bring them to justice given the steady drumbeat of media analysts who assert the newspaper will cease to publish some time soon.

We will keep a close eye on the deliberations of Mr Thornton and his hard-working colleagues in the days and months ahead on this important matter of public interest.


The Australian’s report – in full – is here for your reading pleasure.

Age trio faces DPP scrutiny on ALP files
BY: JOHN FERGUSON AND CHIP LE GRAND From: The Australian October 19, 2012 12:00AM
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COMMONWEALTH prosecutors are considering whether to lay criminal charges against three journalists from The Age newspaper accused of unlawfully accessing information from an ALP database on the eve of the 2010 Victorian election.

Victoria Police yesterday confirmed it had referred a brief of evidence against the journalists to the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions following a nine-month investigation during which the newspaper’s Melbourne offices were raided by detectives from the E-Crime Squad.

A Commonwealth DPP spokesperson said federal prosecutors had received the brief and “the matter is being assessed according to standard prosecution policy”. It is understood the Commonwealth DPP has had the brief since July. The Victoria Police investigation was prompted by a complaint lodged last year by the Victorian Electoral Commission.

The complaint accused The Age journalists of accessing without permission the Eleczilla database, which holds confidential information of voters.

Under the Commonwealth Cybercrime Act 2001, it is illegal for individuals to access data on any computer system if that data has built-in restrictions such as passwords. Breaches carry penalties of up to two years in jail.

The Australian Federal Police yesterday confirmed Victoria Police initially referred the complaint to them last October. After they judged there was insufficient evidence to warrant a federal investigation, Victoria Police launched its own investigation in which it interviewed the journalists involved and seized material from The Age offices.

The Age admitted in a story published under the lead byline of staff reporter Royce Millar that it had gained access to the database. The newspaper denied this amounted to hacking, as it had been provided with a password to the database by a Labor Party election worker. The story also carried the byline of Walkley-winning reporter Nick McKenzie. A third reporter, Ben Schneiders, was involved in accessing the database from the offices of The Age. The then editor-in-chief of The Age, Paul Ramadge, was present when the database was accessed. He was not investigated.

A Fairfax Media spokesman said last night: “Our journalists followed completely appropriate processes in collecting information — they are professional journalists. As such we stand by them and will support them, and will defend any charges if they eventuate.”

The front-page report was published in the final week of the election campaign under the headline “Revealed: How the ALP keeps secret files on voters”. The story acknowledged, but did not investigate, a similar database kept by the Liberal Party.

Registered political parties have an exemption under the Privacy Act to maintain databases containing voter information. It has been known for many years that political parties accumulate large databases by recording details of constituents who call electorate offices with queries.

As part of its reporting, The Age used the database to search for names of high-profile Victorians including then police chief Simon Overland, radio broadcasters Jon Faine and Neil Mitchell, builder Daniel Grollo and barrister Peter Faris QC.

The Age later defended the actions of its reporters, saying they had done “nothing improper, unethical or illegal” and accessing the database was a “wholly legitimate exercise of journalism”.

Labor believes The Age story contributed to the party’s knife-edge loss at the election. However, the ALP is not a complainant in the case.

“This is coming from the VEC and not us,” a party source told The Australian. “It has taken a long time for the matter to be dealt with. We had assumed it was all dead and buried. There is nothing in it for us.”

The VEC complaint was lodged under former electoral commissioner Steve Tully.



Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Royce Millar is on leave and will not be back in the Age until after the Municipal elections. Do not bother trying to call his mobile. He will not answer it.

    Posted by The Age -Priceless | October 19, 2012, 13:05
  2. Royce Millar is a toad, who harasses and lies, and gives even journos a bad name. He is probably on an undercover assignment, looking for dirt on LGA candidates who forget to put their names on election stuff.

    Posted by Digger | October 19, 2012, 13:22
  3. What other databases has the Age accessed without authority or permission? I am deeply concerned by the revelation that the Age considers they are beyond the law and that they have an unwritten professional duty that exempts hem from prosecution. Would a cat burglar be able to claim the same professional privilege? Voter databases are kept by all political parties, including the Greens. They have a legal and professional obligation to ensure that information collected is kept secret and secure. The unauthorised access by the Age must be prosecuted to the fullest extent so as to restore public confidence in our right to privacy. Journalists do not have any right, in undertaking investigations, to breach the laws. They have no more right to access confidential databases as they do to hack into victims telephone voice messages.

    Posted by Concerned citizen | October 19, 2012, 13:23
  4. If they had a password supplied by an ALP person they did not hack anything.

    Hacking is when passwords are guessed and hacked to get into a database.

    The Vic. Pol are stupid.

    Posted by Marilyn | October 19, 2012, 17:14
  5. When vex first started trying to take down “the Age 3” all those weeks ago it seeemed possible, then after a while it got a little boring, and now its getting really sad. Move on it didn’t work.

    Posted by Mysterious and wise | October 19, 2012, 20:32
  6. Nebuchadnezzar seen in WA

    Posted by geof | October 20, 2012, 0:33
  7. I dont reckon baker is clean either

    Posted by scott | October 20, 2012, 23:51
  8. Paulie it is time to sit on my lap and suckle Mumma’s big supple floppy teat.

    Posted by Inga Binga | October 21, 2012, 0:06
  9. Millar is one of the journos providing an almost unfettered republishing route for allegations and mud-slinging of grubby old resuscitated city of Melbourne council candidates trying to stick the knife into Robert Doyle, the only mildly conservative candidate (therefore a natural target) now that Morgan and Elliott have aligned themselves with the Greens. This suits Millar because he doesn’t have to do any work and find any real issues to focus on. If he actually did some work it would be possible to add to debate and not just throw dirt given to him with an obvious agenda. The fact the Age are still employing Millar and allowing or even encouraging him to write, and his name was on an article today, is damaging to any real journos the Age is still managing to retain.

    Posted by Sally | October 21, 2012, 18:50
  10. Marilyn, Marilyn, Marilyn …. time to learn a little bit of law here.
    If a password is obtained and you use it for access in the reasonable knowledge that, had you asked for access it would not be granted.

    If I find your key under your mat and I use it to get into your house, that does not absolve me of any crime associated with that act.
    Then again, if I find your key under your mat I will probably leave well alone.

    Posted by the real wm | October 22, 2012, 16:53
  11. Why should we trust sensitive info to the crooks who run the ALP and Libs? We need brave journalists to expose the corruption which has destroyed this country, not the fuckwits like Fran Kelly who are activists first and journalists second.

    Posted by chris | October 23, 2012, 14:38
  12. The only way to rid Australia of the low life pond scum like Conman and Shortdick is to make branch stacking a c riminal offense with a five year minimum jail term.

    Posted by chris | October 23, 2012, 14:44
  13. How are we going to get rid of the corruption in the HSU? I know, lets put the daughter of C.onroy’s head branch stacker, David A.smar, in charge. Fucking geniuses.

    Posted by chris | October 23, 2012, 14:57
  14. I always love hearing from Marilyn. When she speaks in her unique language of retardese, it reinforces my belief that her and the rest of her leftist pinkos are complete morons

    Posted by David C | October 24, 2012, 7:23
  15. hey David C, what does the C stand for? COCKHEAD or Corrupt

    Posted by hmmm | October 24, 2012, 9:57
  16. Lost the ability to spell your own name have we Marilyn? Go away you leftard freak. P. S Julia Gillard is a hopeless PM and a bloody ranga. Thats not sexism just the truth. Here’s another home truth. You and your fringe dwelling political views will never be relevant. Go back to your chai lattte and lentils luvvy.

    Posted by David C | October 24, 2012, 10:51
  17. holy crapoli Marilyn. If that is the best you can come up with you may as well end it all now.

    Posted by Bob | October 24, 2012, 11:14
  18. Geoff Shaw you have no wife, no family, no business and no political future. Do the right thing and top yourself and make the rest of us smile as the world would be a much nicer place.

    Posted by anon | October 24, 2012, 18:04
  19. Anyone got a job?

    Posted by Marco Bolano | October 24, 2012, 20:09
  20. craig thomson behind bars crook
    julia gillard behind bars crook
    thats all anyone will remember in 10 years time

    Posted by labors legacy | October 24, 2012, 23:04
  21. craig thomson behind bars crook
    julia gillard behind bars crook
    thats all anyone will remember in 10 years time <

    Posted by labors legacy | October 24, 2012, 23:05
  22. craig thomson behind bars crook
    julia gillard behind bars crook
    thats all anyone will remember in 10 years time <<

    Posted by labors legacy | October 24, 2012, 23:05
  23. If I hacked a database = Charged. If The Age journos hack a database = no action.

    Posted by Anonymous | October 25, 2012, 6:45
  24. “If they had a password supplied by an ALP person they did not hack anything.

    Hacking is when passwords are guessed and hacked to get into a database.

    The Vic. Pol are stupid.”

    Ah no, that is not the only thing that “hacking” is and in any case there is no “hacking” offence there is only the unauthorised access to a computer system recognised by law.

    If a bank employee gave me, random joe shcmoe, passwords to the banks systems and I accessed peoples accounts without authorisation they and I would be going to jail. The legislation specifically deals with that problem, which is way it deals with unauthorised access, not the nebulous term “hacking”.

    But don’t let a Fairfax conjured fantasy get in the road of reality.

    Posted by twostix | October 25, 2012, 14:24
  25. It would be the bank employee and bank who would be most at fault in that scenario.
    Who is the ALP employee who provided the username and password to The Age?
    Was the username traceable to an individual? I seem to recall that it was a untraceable generic username/password that was used.
    The real issue here is the complete lack of safeguards, such as logging access history, to protect the privacy of citizens.
    It is bad enough that these databases run by the ALP and Libs are exempt from privacy laws.
    What’s worse is that the crooks within the ALP and Unions, and their mates like Gatto, have complete and untraceable access to this database. God help us

    Posted by chris | October 25, 2012, 16:12
  26. Geoff Shaw seemed to be a very experienced wanker by those hand movements.

    Posted by The real 'wanker' is Shaw | October 25, 2012, 22:07
  27. Shaw sure is a wanker or whacker but so are all the big fat ALP womyn MPs who are bitching and saying the word in valed speech “it sounds like banker”.

    As for the “obscene” gesture get real. Was it a thumb up or a finger up or was it a reversed V for victory – big deal

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 25, 2012, 23:42
  28. Dirty Donna has put on several kilos since becoming the Member for Carrum… I would have thought sitting next to Geoffy Shaw would have kept her stimulated to keep the kilos off… Obviously not, or perhaps Geoff likes something to hold on to? He won’t we be holding on to his preselection, that’s for Shaw…

    Posted by BBW | October 26, 2012, 4:12
  29. My ‘exercise’ routine with Geoff only lasts 30 seconds even after all his wanking he is still a very quick lover.

    Posted by Dirty Donna | October 26, 2012, 6:46
  30. Shaw me old mate you’re in more shit than a Werribee duck! Have you been slipping a length to Blondie Bow Wow have you son? Maybe we could invite Wenchy for a or gee all together? You have to go seconds though as I’m the senior experienced philanderer here.

    Posted by Boofa | October 26, 2012, 17:09
  31. I don’t know why Merlino is concerned about a hand gesture. After all it was his Roman ancestors, like Nero, who used thumbs up or down in the colosseum

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 26, 2012, 17:29
  32. why was my post about the HSU deleted fatboy?
    I will say it again, we must not let the Brimbank/Darebin disease infect the HSU.
    That would be like giving AIDS to a cancer sufferer.
    Stephen Conman has done enough damage to the integrity our political system already. We must put him and his branch stackers like David Asmar in prison where they belong.

    Posted by chris | October 26, 2012, 23:28
  33. What I really want and get off thinking about is Shaw using his hand on my little willy.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 0:12
  34. Andrew – the comment at 26 Oct 12, 17:29 is by an imposter.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 0:22
  35. The comment at 27 Oct 12, 00:12 is by an imposter.

    The comment by me at 27 Oct 12, 0.22 is an error. Wrong comment critised.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 0:27
  36. we don’t care. take your inane bullshit to the footy forums

    Posted by chris | October 27, 2012, 1:13
  37. Dean still makes all of the above look good in comparison

    Posted by Jimmysmatesmate | October 27, 2012, 10:00
  38. Apparently voter turn out at some Port Phillip polling stations is very poor as voters prepolled, postal voted or its to cold. Thats silly attendance voting for you.

    Postal voting should be used across the state next time – no exceptions.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 11:03
  39. I wonder if I could get show to use his ‘hand expertise’ on myself?

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 14:58
  40. Another imposter above at 27 Oct 12, 14:58

    It looks like it will be a big clean out of the commies in Port Phillip this election now that we are more affluent, gentrified and rational.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 15:43
  41. I shall watch the case with interest — but what else does one expect from journalists? they all seem to have a genetic predisposition to an unjustifed sense of self importance

    Posted by Kym Durance | October 27, 2012, 16:51
  42. So doing a public interest story on how political parties are exempted from privacy law makes the journos privacy breaking crims? That’s vexed logic…

    Posted by Graeme | October 27, 2012, 21:17
  43. Bloody hell who is the fake me at 15;43?
    I seriously want Geoff Shaw to have a fiddle with the genitals what is wrong with that?

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 27, 2012, 23:51
  44. Another imposter at 27 Oct 12, 23:51

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 29, 2012, 23:26
  45. Dan if I pay you will you let me photograph your privates?

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 29, 2012, 23:39
  46. Andrew, that is impersonation at 27 Oct 15.43 and 27 Oct 23.51. Please delete. That nonsense could jeopardise my chances with Geoff.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 30, 2012, 8:43
  47. Andrew yet another imposter at 29 Oct 12,23:39. Perhaps I will use a fake name like so many others on Vexnews do or abandon you site completely. I know you value my input showing a different angle to many stories but we have to make sacrifices.

    The Toorak Times is starting a websites. I think its called tooraktimes.com I met the late owners son Mick last night as a function in St Kilda and he told he about it and that he is starting it up.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | October 30, 2012, 13:08


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