Leak reveals push to give Peter Dutton's new department the power to spy on Australian citizens' emails and text messages

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton. Picture: Getty Images

  • Home Affairs Department Secretary email to Defence Department heads leaked.
  • News Corp reveal request to increase powers of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).
  • Claim the request called for ASD to get access to emails, bank records and text messages.

The Labor Party has called for an investigation into a leak of “top secret correspondence” hinting at new powers proposed for Australia’s cyber security agency, the Australian Signals Directorate.

Just months after secretary Mike Pezzullo said the Turnbull government’s new Home Affairs Department would “reach into just about every area of the Australian economy and society”, it’s been claimed the ASD may be given access to Australians’ emails, bank records and text messages.

News Corp reports that the leak reveals Pezzullo wrote to the Defence department in February, saying that the increased powers for the ASD would allow it to “support law enforcement agencies in fighting online, cybercrime and cyber-enabled threats”.

The Home Affairs Department began operating in December under Peter Dutton, giving him oversight of ASIO, the AFP and Border Force.

The Australian Federal Police will investigate the leak of the letter and the Turnbull government has since denied there were any plans to expand the ASD’s powers to enable it to spy on Australian citizens.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said there was no need to expand ASD’s powers and “certainly believe(s) that the current laws safeguard the privacy of Australians but also keep Australians safe”.

Under current laws, ASD cannot gather intelligence on Australian citizens.

The AFP and ASIO can investigate citizens with a warrant.

Former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg told The Australian Financial Review the proposal to give ASD greater powers to gather intelligence domestically “had merit”.

You can read more about the push to increase Australia’s spy powers at The Australian Financial Review here.

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