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Can You Record Your Phone Conversations In Australia?

Recording a call could get you in trouble, depending on which state you live in.
A woman in a suit on a business callFangXiaNuo via Getty Images

Why would you record your conversations in the first place? Businesses may record their calls for training and quality purposes. Most individuals who record their calls do it to protect themselves – recordings can act as evidence in divorce settlements, custody battles, criminal investigations, civil court cases, and more. 

But is it legal to record a phone call in Australia? The short answer is: it depends on where you live. Recording your phone calls can be a crime in itself (and inadmissible as evidence) in certain states. Do you live in a single-party consent state, or will you get in legal trouble for recording your conversations without permission? Find out below!

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Is Call Recording Legal In Australia?

Across Australia, it’s perfectly legal to record your phone conversations if you get the consent of the other party. You must inform the person you’re talking to that you’re recording the call. This allows them to make an informed decision about whether they want to continue the conversation, knowing that you’re recording it. They can also request to be transferred to a non-recording line.

A woman in a suit on a business call
(Credit: FangXiaNuo via Getty Images)

Is It Illegal To Record Someone Without Their Consent?

If you want to record a phone call without their knowledge, it gets a bit trickier. The Australian federal government allowed each state to decide their own call recording laws, so you’ll have to double-check with local legislation to ensure that you’re not committing a crime.

A man in a suit with a brass scale and file
(Credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao via Getty Images)

The 1979 Telecommunications Interception and Access Act also forbids you to listen to a live phone call or call recording without the permission of one or both of the parties involved.

This applies no matter how you record the conversation, whether it’s by tapping their line, using an app to record calls made to or from your mobile phone, or using a separate call recorder device. 

Learning how to record a phone call isn’t difficult, especially with today’s technology. There are even iPhone and Android apps that do it for you and require little to no technical skill.

Call Recording Laws By State & Territory

NSW & ACT

In New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, it is legal to record a private conversation (i.e. not in a public space) if both parties consent to the recording. It is also legal if only one party consents and one of the following two conditions is met:

  • It is reasonably believed that recording the conversation protects the lawful interests of the said party.
  • The recording is made to communicate or publish the conversation only to the other party involved.

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 50 penalty units (ACT only)

NT

In the Northern Territory, it is legal to record a phone call conversation as long as you have the consent of at least one party (which could be you). But there are many instances in which a listening or recording device can be used even if you aren’t a party to the conversation This includes:

  • There is a police warrant.
  • A law enforcement officer is doing so to protect someone’s safety.
  • In the case of emergencies, urgent matters, and serious circumstances where using a recording device is in the public interest BUT the person recording it must submit a written report to an NT judge within two business days

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 250 penalty units

QLD

In Queensland, it is legal to use a listening/recording device to record a private conversation as long as you are a party to that conversation. However, you cannot share that recording with anyone who wasn’t a party to that conversation unless it is reasonably necessary to protect your lawful interests, or it is in the public interest to share it.

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 40 penalty units

SA

In South Australia, it is illegal to record a private conversation without the express or implied consent of all parties. However, there are a few exceptions to this law, such as:

  • It was done in the course of duty, such as by a police officer.
  • The private conversation was recorded by one party and is in the public interest.
  • The conversation was recorded to protect the lawful interests of one party.

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment or a $AUD 10,000 fine

WA

In Western Australia, it is illegal to record a private conversation without the consent of all parties involved, whether or not you are a party to the conversation. However, it is legal to record a phone call as long as one principal party consents and its use is reasonably necessary to protect that party’s lawful interests. It is also legal to record private conversations without the consent of any party if it is in the public interest.

Penalty: Up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a $AUD 5,000 fine

VIC

In Victoria, it is legal to record any private conversation as long as you are a party to it. If you are not a party to the conversation, you must get the explicit permission of all the parties involved.

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment

TAS

In Tasmania, it is legal to record a private conversation if you are a party to that conversation, as long as you don’t share the recording without the consent of all parties. There are also numerous exceptions, such as:

  • The recording was made to obtain evidence in connection with an imminent threat of serious violence or substantial property damage, as long as the person who recorded it submits a report to the Chief Magistrate within three days
  • The recording was reasonably necessary to protect the lawful interests of one party.
  • The recording was made by one party and will not be shared with people who weren’t a party to the conversation.

Penalty: Up to 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 40 penalty units

Woman listening to music on her Android phone
(Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images)

Conclusion

Recording a phone call conversation is a tricky legal matter. Depending on where you live in Australia, it could either be perfectly fine or a criminal offence. Plus, there are lots of exceptions and circumstances to make it even more complicated! Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate those treacherous waters.

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