Victoria Police power heightened for terrorist-related investigations

As part of a the Victorian Review of Counter-Terrorism Legislation, Victoria Police will receive extended powers to remotely access people's computers for terrorist-related investigations.

Victoria Police will now be able to remotely access and make copies of data that it believes could help with any terrorist-related investigations.

This comes as part of a string of 13 recommendations that was tabled in parliament on Tuesday by the Victorian Review of Counter-Terrorism Legislation.

In the counter-terrorism legislation report (PDF), the review committee said it agrees with the police that the counter-terrorism legislation needs to be modified "in order to keep up technological developments that may not have been foreseen when the TCPA (Terrorism Community Protect Act 2003) was last substantively amended in 2006".

The committee highlighted that in Victoria Police's written submission as part of the review process, the police argued that obtaining remote access to a person's computer is a much "safer option for officers", and it's a "less-intrusive process" for the occupier.

Other recommendations that the committee made included making it clear that covert search warrants can authorise searches of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft, and enabling preventative detention orders to be sought in respect to any imminent threat, rather than being limited to threats expected within a 14-day period.

Victoria's Attorney-General Robert Clark said the state government (PDF) supports 12 of the committee's 13 recommendations, including amendments to the definition of a terrorist act to be more consistent with the Commonwealth, and to enable covert search warrants to authorise remote access held on targets' computers.

"The report identifies several areas where definitions should be clarified and amendments made to ensure authorities have appropriate powers to investigate and, where necessary, detain suspects," he said.

Clark said the government opposes the recommendation proposing that occupiers be given delayed notice after the event that a covert search has been conducted of their property using a covert search warrant, as it could potentially jeopardise ongoing investigations.

The review committee was chaired by former County Court Judge David Jones, and was joined by retired Lieutenant-General Mark Evans and former Victoria Police deputy commissioner Kieran Walshe.