Melbourne Cup: Racing authorities campaign for right to access mobile phone metadata

Melbourne Cup: Racing authorities campaign for right to access mobile phone metadata

Melbourne Cup: Racing authorities campaign for right to access mobile phone metadata

Updated 16 August 2017, 17:30 AEST

Punters make up to "600 bets a second" on Melbourne Cup day, but authorities say they have been unable to uphold the race's integrity since the Federal Government stripped them of their right to request phone records two years ago.

Punters make up to "600 bets a second" on Melbourne Cup day, but authorities charged with upholding the integrity of racing cannot view the phone records of anyone suspected of engaging in suspicious activity.

Until 2015, stewards and integrity officials in four states had the power to request phone records, but changes by the Federal Government, made as part of the metadata laws, stripped them of the tool.

Before the changes more than 80 groups had access, now it is just 21 key law enforcement agencies.

Authorities have been campaigning to get the powers back to ensure the integrity of racing is upheld.

Victorian racing integrity commissioner Sal Perna has made several requests to Attorney-General George Brandis' department to restore the powers, and he has the backing of the Andrews Government to do so.

With the Spring Racing Carnival just months away there is a renewed push for the powers to be reinstated.

Mr Perna told the ABC the changes were very simple to make and did not require legislation.

He said viewing phone records was essential to uncovering corrupt behaviour. The powers do not extend to phone taps.

"The sorts of information you would find on your phone bill at the end of every month, who you rang, how long for, where you were, whether it was a phone call or SMS, that's really what we asking for," Mr Perna said.

Racing is worth $2.8 billion in Victoria alone.

"On Melbourne Cup day we might have 600 bets a second on that particular day, it's critical that we are able to follow through information and get to an end point where we can say there is something suspicious here or it is all fine and move on," Mr Perna said.

Racing Australia also backs the return of the powers.

Former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell is the group's chief executive. He said the powers often provided extra information to crimefighting authorities.

"Like DNA, like fingerprinting, metadata can be incredibly important in assisting in the prevention of crime and corruption across this country," Mr O'Farrell said.

"These powers proved effective in combating the scourge of illegal gambling and also the access to the industry of prohibited substances."

Senator Brandis' spokesman said the changes were made in part due to strong public concerns.

"While no additional agencies have been granted access, a designated enforcement agency such as Victoria Police could partner with the commissioner, provided the investigation is within Victoria Police's functions," he said.

Victoria's Opposition racing spokesman, Tim Bull, said while the Coalition would seek more details on Mr Perna's request, it was supportive of anything that boosted integrity and helped share information with crimefighting bodies.

"Any steps to tidy up the industry is a good thing," Mr Bull said.