Attorney-General George Brandis says Australia’s police and spy agencies have told the government they’re happy with the reach of anti-terror laws.
Australia’s police and spies say the government’s plans to toughen anti-terrorism laws go far enough and they don’t want any extra powers.
Police have only just used an existing power to detain people without charge, for the first time since it was introduced in 2005.
Three of the 15 people arrested in Sydney and Brisbane in raids this week and then released on Friday afternoon, were held under these preventative detention orders, reports suggest.
The government wants to extend time limits on these preventative detention orders.
In the wake of Thursday’s anti-terror blitz, Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) if there was any other power they needed “to protect the Australian people from the menace of terrorism”.
“They have said that in all but one relatively small respect they are very happy with the legislation,” Attorney-General George Brandis told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.
But the AFP has asked the government to consider adding an expedited process for obtaining control orders in urgent circumstances.
Senator Brandis will discuss this more next week.
“The Australian people expect the government to act strongly here,” he said.
“They don’t expect to see us mucking around, they expect to see us operating decisively and firmly.”
The opposition has also been briefed on the (new) foreign fighters legislation but has not seen its final form.
Labor will reserve its opinion until seeing the bill, particularly amendments planned on ASIO’s powers, when the bill is introduced on Wednesday.
However, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus noted the “very fine work” both ASIO and the police have managed to do with existing laws – including this week’s raids.
Mr Dreyfus is concerned immunity provisions could allow Australian spies to torture people and he wants the government to wipe out any doubts.
But Senator Brandis said ASIO could never be authorised to torture.
“This is not something that any Australian government agency, no matter what the circumstances, would ever do,” he said.
The Australian Greens are concerned giving agencies more power will overturn democratic rights and restrict civil liberties.
A parliamentary committee wants changes made to the agency powers bill, including better oversight of provisions that give spies immunity from criminal prosecution, and the government has said it supports the committee’s 17 recommendations.
Deputy chair Anthony Byrne wants the committee to have oversight of the AFP, in addition to its current role of monitoring ASIO.