Australian government to boost spy powers on back of Iraq fears

Australian government to boost spy powers on back of Iraq fears

Summary: On the back of fears over the Australians joining conflicts in Iraq and Syria, Attorney-General George Brandis is set to introduce legislation for new spying powers for Australian's peak intelligence agency.


Attorney-General George Brandis is set to give the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) significant new powers in response to claims up to 150 Australians have joined the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Before the last election, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security reviewed Australia's telecommunications interception and access legislation in response to law enforcement agencies' complaints to government that advancements in technology, and the limited record-keeping of customer billing information by telecommunications companies, was making it difficult for them to investigate crime.

The most controversial request was for telecommunications companies to keep call record, IP address information, and other so-called "metadata" for up to two years.

The former Labor government did not act on the recommendations, but the new Coalition government has today indicated it would proceed with one batch of recommendations, bringing on new legislation in the next few weeks.

Brandis said the decision to bring forward the legislation came as Australian intelligence organisations found that up to 150 Australians were believed to have joined ISIL in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, and would be prosecuted for being members of a group listed as a terrorist organisation under Australian law.

"The Government has decided to give effect to important recommendations of the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in its report into potential reforms to Australia’s national security legislation," Brandis said.

"In particular, I will be introducing legislation in the next sitting fortnight to give effect to the recommendations in chapter four of that report. Those are the series of recommendations which deal with the powers of Australia's national security agencies. That legislation has been developed in recent weeks and, as I say, I will be introducing it in the next sitting fortnight."

Chapter four of the commitee's report contains 22 recommendations that deal with ASIO's powers to tap, and search computers and other devices.

Under the new legislation ASIO will be able to obtain a warrant to access all computers at a specific location, and all computers associated with a particular person, where before it wasn't clear in the legislation whether the warrant provided access to just a single computer.

ASIO would also be able to disrupt target computers, accessing the computers of people associated with national security targets, and communications in transit to a target computer.

For the moment, the government has not made any announcement around plans to legislate data retention, however it has been reported in the past few days that data retention would be kept as a separate piece of legislation to ensure ASIO's new powers have a better chance of getting through parliament with bipartisan support.

Labor has already flagged, however, that it would also be supportive of a mandatory data retention regime.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Privacy


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Don't do it, Aussies

    "The Ghoulish Face of Empire
    by Chris Hedges
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • We Real Aussies won't...

    ... but the far right (read fascist in reality) droids in power atm are the dumber equivalents of the US tea party simians, and are wedded to the US security industry at the hip... and the centre left (read right in reality) Labor opposition are almost as bad. Georgy B, the hack AG has the legal and moral leanings of a gerbil, and the only hope for anything outside of 50's tech in this joint now is the Green's Ludlum, who amazingly got re-elected in a state full of mining drones and South African expats.
  • dangerous powers

    I'm all for cracking down on idiots... but these are dangerous powers that can also be easily abused.... don't like it at all.
  • We'd hoped for better.

    Increased genuflexion to the US and Big Business now seem to be the current alternative to the incompetent profligacy of Labour government.
    The "Free" Trade Agreement, Abbott's shameless capitulation to Obama this month, changes to the NBN that will continue the Telstra-Foxtel monopoly and now our decision to increase our position as a junior branch of the NSA and CIA will leave many Australians ready to vote for anyone but the Coalition or the Labour-Green alliance at the next election.
    Thanks to the digital age, voters' memories are no longer as short as the political oligarchy seem to think.
  • Our dumb, demented AG...

    is at it again.

    He hasn't the faintest clue what an NBN is, & now he thinks giving the ASIO more powers will provide us with more protection.

    All it will do, is give a few of the over reaching police thugs, more powers to intrude on most of the countries citizens (the silent majority), who do no wrong.

    ASIO already has more than sufficient power to come down on these thugs who are busy in the Middle Easy, butchering innocent people. Giving them more power, is folly of the worst kind.

    The authorities need the power to cancel their passports, before they return. Make these idiots think twice before they leave Australia, to fight & kill others just to satisfy their lust for power. These deluded idiots think Sharia law gives them the right to behave like animals..

    If any of the Politicians in power, need to do anything, it's the Immigration Minster Scott Morrison. He needs to provide the legislation which would allow the authorities to cancel the passports, of these murdering, butchering jihadists, who hold Australian passports, & go to fight a war which is not ours. ASIO already knows who they are!

    They don't need the NSA to tell them or our AG to provide more powers, which is just a knee jerk reaction, ill conceived!.

    The AG as usual, doesn't have a clue.