Internet, mobile phones force anti-terror rethink: Howard

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has conceded that anti-terrorism legislation in many countries is antiquated and ill-equipped to cope with terrorists' exploitation of new technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones to carry out their activities.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has conceded that anti-terrorism legislation in many countries is antiquated and ill-equipped to cope with terrorists' exploitation of new technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones to carry out their activities.

In a joint press conference with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair in London overnight, Howard described anti-terrorism legislation globally as "19th century legal responses to potentially 21st century technological terrorist capacity" and said Australia was reviewing the effectiveness of its own legislation.

"We are carrying out an examination at the moment of the need to change and strengthen our laws against terrorist activity, or potential terrorist activity, and we will include in that examination the sort of changes that have been contemplated here in Britain," Howard said.

"One of the difficulties that all societies face here is that essentially the laws dealing with the behaviour of terrorists were framed at a time when terrorists didn't have available to them the technology, access for how to make a bomb from the Internet, mobile phones, text messages".

The British government recently introduced legislation to clamp down on terrorism incited via the Internet. The move followed the 7 July bombings which tore through London's public transport system, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 700.

Those bombings -- and the copycat ones which followed overnight -- dominated discussion in the joint Blair-Howard press conference.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said some of the legislative moves to combat terrorism in Britain in some cases lagged behind Australia's anti-terrorism efforts.

"In some cases, our counter-terrorism laws have available specific offences that are not available in the [United Kingdom]," the spokesperson said.

Still, Australia would continue to discuss with the UK how legislation could be improved to tackle new technologies, she said.

Ruddock is currently in the United States for a week of talks with government officials on improving counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries in this region.

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