New laws won't increase spying: Brandis

New laws won't increase spying: Brandis

Summary: Australian Attorney General George Brandis has downplayed fears of enhanced powers for intelligence agencies leading to imprisoning of whistleblowers and journalists.


Sweeping new powers for intelligence agencies won't increase surveillance of innocent Australians, Attorney General George Brandis says.

Nor will it lead to the prosecution of journalists who report on Edward Snowden-like leaks, he says.

Senator Brandis on Wednesday revealed proposed changes to security legislation, which he says will improve agencies' ability to predict and prevent attacks from extremists returning from the Middle East.

But civil libertarians say the new ASIO and ASIS powers could lead to growth in state surveillance of ordinary Australians.

Under the legislation introduced into the Senate on Wednesday, spy agencies will be given the power to access a third party's computer.

Senator Brandis says the new provision will be used in "very limited circumstances" and only when necessary to deal with a national security threat.

However, the proposal has raised questions about whether all Australians will come under some form of surveillance.

"That's not going to happen — I think we should be very wary of making wild claims," Senator Brandis told ABC radio.

"People need to understand that ASIO and the national security agencies operate under a very, very comprehensive regime of safeguards and scrutiny and oversight — and that's not going to change."

Senator Brandis also rejected suggestions a new offence for "unauthorised dealings" with intelligence material would lead to the prosecutions of journalists reporting on leaked material.

The offence will only relate to those who work for security agencies and was not targeted at whistleblowers, he said.

"There are provisions for the protection of whistleblowers elsewhere in commonwealth legislation which are unaffected by this proposal," he said.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam indicated his party will push for a separate Senate inquiry into the changes.

He says it's not appropriate for the joint standing committee on security and intelligence, which proposed the changes in the first place, to conduct an inquiry.

"This government is in enough trouble without picking a fight with the internet," he said.

Expanding ASIO powers had become an annual event but privacy safeguards weren't keeping pace, he said.

Senator Ludlam also holds concerns about protection for journalists under the proposal.

Overnight the United Nations top human rights official Navi Pillay warned government surveillance programs were becoming a "dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure" and said she was concerned about weak procedural safeguards and ineffective oversight.

Brandis tells Assange to man up

Julian Assange should be "man enough" to face the sexual assault allegations against him, the federal government says.

A Swedish court on Wednesday upheld an arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks founder. The warrant was issued in 2010 over allegations of rape and sexual molestation which Assange has denied.

The court's decision is another setback for the 43-year-old Australian, who has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than two years in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Assange says he fears that if he goes to Sweden he will be extradited on to the United States to face charges for publishing classified material.

But Brandis says Assange should face the claims.

"I think Mr Assange should be man enough to face the allegations against him of being a sexual predator," he said.

Topics: Privacy, Government AU

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  • The difficulty of having a job outside of your skill-set

    Over the past few months we have regularly heard pronouncements from the "attorney general" (apologies, but the current holder of that office doesn't merit capitalisation - just like the other Queenslander holding a similar role within the state), which aim to pacify us about his intentions.

    Problematically, because our unelected leaders, Peta Credlin and Brian Loughnane, have absolutely zero knowledge of the law, or much else outside of winning things, this has meant the Credlin's appointment of Brandis puts him into a role he has no skills for.

    Brandis's legal career surrounded defamation (there's something for @CliveFPalmer), and has written 2 books, one of which was cited by the High Court in an industrial dispute.

    It should be reasonable to expect a first law officer to have some depth of knowledge of the law, and to be at least a little thoughtful of the effects of pronouncements being made without asking for Peta Credlin's advice, backed up by Mr Loughnane, her owner, sorry, husband to ensure correct tweet values are utilised, since that appears to be Mr Loughnanes particular skill.

    Brandis doesn't appear to ask anyone before he pontificates on matters he has little knowledge of, and to suggest that Julian Assange "man up", coming from Brandis is so funny as to have had me choking on my cornflakes as I read it.

    George, dear, before you open your mouth and pronounce like some church leader pontificating on condoms, do take a moment to seek wise counsel. Now with this latest outburst, you have the typists of the Murdoch pool sweating profusely over what it is they can't say.

    Mind you, they haven't much to concern themselves with based on the reality, which is that this, like most of the tripe you come up with, will be gone by next Thursday, after a luncheon with Peta, to suggest you call her more regularly, and from Brian, nodding sagely beside her.

    Looking forward to a deeper explanation of your adding "licence to kill" and the numbers 007 to the "intelligence" community as well.

    In the service of peace and justice

    Another citizen journalist with too much time on his hands.

    PS.. It may be worth remembering that even though ALP lost the last election (please don't suggest you think LNP won), the way you and your cuddle buddies are behaving, you better make the most of this one term- you know - pay rises, sackings, church leaders (catholic only apparently though Morrison is a piece of work on behalf of hill-song in Bondi.
    • Jees Footy...

      ... I was about to rant on with terms like hack, bunter and possibly pen.s with ears (normally reserved for the little fat guy's parliamentary leader), but I find I can't really improve or add to your fine post!

      So "what he said!"

      • @Jees - Footy

        Why thank you sir. Your appreciation is most appreciated.
  • Hacker was once an honorable title.

    Back in the 80s I was a REAL hacker. Hack was a very onomatopoeic word because hackers were people who tore their own machines to pieces in order to make them capapble of doing things beyond their original design (or retail) parameters. In most cases (where are the screws?) this meant adding 3rd party hardware and writing custom code. In a few cases (screws left intact) it meant finding features that had been overlooked because the computer was dumbed down and rebadged.

    I saw and heard a TRS-80 playing digitally sampled music long before the CD or the advent of a genuine sound card. Said Trash 80 was also sporting MORE memory than than the 1MB limit on the PC. We were proud of our community user groups.

    Today, the title of Hacker has been usurped by the media to refer to people whose computers have all the screws in place and haven't been physically modified, but used to break into other people's computers instead.

    If my computers were to be "audited", investigators would be very disappointed. All they would find are proprietary files maintained for business, my own digital media collection (privately ripped), and a few search links to "crack files" simply because I like to track them down to prove a point----for the retail price, I can't see that all those teenagers out there using PhotoShop have legitimate licences. I won't use "cracked" software, I'm just proving how easy it is to do.

    If that "research without intent" is going to attract the wrong sort of attention, then as more and more data retention becomes implemented, so will 1024-byte (or greater*) open source encryption be implemented by the community simply as a form of civil disobedience.

    *A 64-bit key can be cracked in under 20 minutes on my modest hardware----that's a decryption key, NOT a login password, because any sensible server should lock up for a minimum period of time after a given number of failed attempts.

    Back in the DOS days when Answering Machine modems first appeared, a friend and I developed our own phone call encryption system. The modem sampled the audio, feeding it back into the computer where it was then encrypted and sent out as data across the phone line. Admittedly, we sounded like Daleks when talking to each other but, as we were using a 320 kiloByte two-way key it would have been interesting to see how long it took for that key to be broken. Getting the modems to use Voice AND Data modes was, at that time, the biggest challenge.

    @Footprint.IT, I think you do too many politicians an injustice by capitalizing their names, let alone their alleged titles.