The Federal Government will introduce legislation to change Australia’s terrorism laws giving security agencies increased power to deal with home-grown threats.
Prohibiting travel to certain locations without proper reason is among the changes, which Attorney General George Brandis said could include humanitarian or family purposes.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said enhanced powers are needed so intelligence agencies can deal with an increasing home-grown terrorist threat.
Bishop said there are about 30 people suspected of fighting in the Middle East and are of interest to Australia’s security authorities. It is estimated about 25 of those people have now returned to Australia.
“The threat to Australia and Australians from extremists is real and growing,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a joint statement.
“Australian citizens and dual nationals are currently fighting overseas in Iraq, Syria and other conflicts, committing unspeakable atrocities and honing terrorist skills.
“Many violent jihadists will attempt to return home.”
Over the next four years $600 million will be allocated to ASIO, the AFP, ASIS, ONA, and Customs and Border Protection to bolster counter-terrorism efforts.
Australia’s terrorism threat remains unchanged at medium since September 11, 2001. However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said concern is “heightened”.
“The potential for terrorism in this country has substantially increased,” he said. “The number of people that need to be monitored has substantially increased.”
Also in the mix is broadening the definition of conduct that can be labelled terrorism, including the promotion or encouragement of terrorist behaviours.
Changing the legal definition of terrorism will lower the threshold for arresting suspects, clarify that it is an offence to train with terrorist organisations, and lower the standards of proof for offences committed overseas.
The legislation will include measures to deal with threats arising from technology advancements, including data retention and telecommunication interception law changes.
Brandis said the Counter-Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill will be introduced to parliament in the first week of Spring sitting and he expects it will pass with bi-partisan support.
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