Tough new terror laws to ease intelligence sharing between overseas spies, ADF

Attorney-General George Brandis image

Attorney-General George Brandis dismissed concerns that the increased intelligence sharing could allow the ADF to target Australian citizens for killing. Photo: Andrew Meares

Police will have greater powers to curb the movements of terrorism suspects without charge and overseas spies will more easily share intelligence with the military under new national security legislation.

The third wave of the Abbott government’s tougher counterterrorism laws are set to pass the Parliament after Labor said on Tuesday it would support the measures.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the government had accepted 15 changes to the new law recommended by a joint parliamentary committee.

The law makes it easier for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service – the nation’s foreign intelligence-gathering agency – to share intelligence with the Australian Defence Force, a measure aimed at improving the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Critics have warned this could help the ADF target Australian extremists in Iraq, though the change will also probably help military personnel protect themselves against suicide attacks.

Senator Brandis sharply dismissed the “baseless assertion” by Greens senator Penny Wright that the increased intelligence sharing could allow the ADF to target Australian citizens for killing.

He said ASIS was forbidden from using violence and the ADF had strict rules of engagement that would also prohibit such targeted killings. ASIS was already able to share intelligence with the ADF, he said. The change to the law would make that function more explicit and improve the “transparency” of that process.

ASIS, along with Defence’s communications and satellite intelligence agencies, will also be able to more easily collect information on Australian citizens in an emergency.

Currently they need a ministerial authorisation to do so but, under the changes, in the event an appropriate government minister cannot be found to give the authorisation straightaway, approval may be given by the head of the intelligence agency. An appropriate minister will then need to be notified within eight hours.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security will review any such authorisations.

Senator Brandis said the number of Australians going to the Middle East to fight with the Islamic State group meant there was a “heightened need” for such intelligence gathering on Australian citizens.

Senator Wright said: “We are debating a bill that may lead to ASIS being involved in the targeted killings of Australian citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria. And the Australian Greens have listened to experts in the space who say that such killings raise significant and difficult questions of domestic policy, human rights and international law.”

Henry Sapiecha

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