JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Dramatic changes to anti-terrorism laws threaten being overblown

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Government needs to clarify metadata stance

It's not clear if Tony Abbott's suggestion that metadata be used to fight general crime is consistent with government policy says Shadow Assistant Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.

PT0M0S 620 349

Terror tourism is hardly new. A good argument can be made to simply let any Australians who want to fight overseas to go - and hope they wind up dead.

Stripping wannabe terrorists of their passport only makes for more expensive surveillance operations at home.

The Abbott government must make a better case for the new laws.

The Abbott government must make a better case for the new laws. Photo: Andrew Meares

And this $600 million funding boost to national security agencies is very much about having enough resources and personnel to keep a watchful eye.

But it’s not merely a numbers game. The Australian government has a responsibility not to knowingly allow its citizens to wreak bloody havoc in the world.

With upwards of 150 Australians suspected of fighting in Syria and Iraq, there is also the threat posed should they return home.

But again, this type of danger is not without precedent. The concern in years gone by was over Australians fighting in Afghanistan or Somalia. Similarly, the Brits had a serious challenge with radicalised young men with family ties to Pakistan.

As a result, Western security agencies have become pretty adept at monitoring borders and spotting the international links that are usually needed to draw people to the fight.

What has changed in recent times - aside from the location of the conflicts - is the numbers of those involved, increasing the chance of someone with malevolent intent slipping by.

That makes for an understandable case to increase the resources for security agencies.

But not a convincing argument for dramatic changes to the law, especially on the need to store massive amounts of personal data about Australians (an idea on the backburner, for now).

The internet has long harboured a dark side of extremist propaganda. Without doubt, the sharing of graphic images on social media has increased the potential audience. But there is a big difference between idiots gawking at violence and actually planning an attack.

Invoking the threat of “lone wolf” terrorists seems especially overblown. Terrorism is an act of political violence and while that does not preclude someone acting alone, a cell of like-minded conspirators is far more likely to encourage, plan and execute an attack.

The criminal code has proved well equipped to deal with individuals.  

This is not to be ignorant of the huge moral challenge if security agencies believe extra powers can save lives.

But the Abbott government must make a better case for new laws and be mindful of its conservative predecessor, to be alert and not alarmed.

Follow us on Twitter

11 comments

  • I think the main worry is that when jihadists return to Australia, they might promote their tactics as being acceptable forms of political dissent. The simple fact is that there are not so many ways that anyone can into the same types of violence in Australia, and certainly not in the same order of magnitude as in the middle east. Of course it is always of use to those with an authoritarian bent to have laws which bypass habeas corpus.

    Commenter
    adam
    Location
    yarrawonga
    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 7:21AM
    • It's my understanding these people are not hard to find and monitor, most of them make their views pretty clear.........the gov could just try going to a few houses of worship......so this push to spy on all aussies to catch some who are pretty obvious in society with their views, is ridiculous i feel....

      Commenter
      Glen
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 3:00PM
  • Let them go and then bar them from coming back into the country. Australia has always welcomed people from diverse backgrounds. But if people want to turn against Australia by becoming militant terrorists then they don't deserve to live here.

    Commenter
    JB
    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 8:36AM
    • Spot on . And with a bit of luck they can all win a Darwin award.

      Commenter
      Phil
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 9:11AM
  • Have a careful look at what is being proposed here and the how it will affect our need to preserve civil liberties and hold the government accountable for its' actions. I believe there is more real and present danger to the Australian way of life from the Abbott government and George Brandis in particular than the jihadists.

    Commenter
    Terry Reid
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 9:30AM
    • I think, Daniel, you forget that in making his case Tony has to negotiate both houses of parliament and probably a committee or two. He has already mooted seeking bi-partisan support (which I believe the leader of the opposition is prepared to consider it, once the detail is known).

      This is what our parliament is for. From what I have seen, both sides of the political spectrum seem able to get themselves up over the years for the occasion when it as important as this.

      Assymetrical warfare, terrorism and jihad have moved the goal posts signficantly. Conventional responses have, in a number of instances, proved ineffective. Perhaps I am on my own here, but I am hardly surprised that authorities perceive a need to recalibrate. It is the parliament as whole, though, that will decide to what extent.

      Commenter
      Mother of Ross
      Location
      Mallabula
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 10:09AM
      • Abbott wants access to internet and phone records to prevent 'general crimes'. Meaning: visit Pirate Bay and you're going to get arrested; visit Amazon, and your information will be monitored to ensure corporate donors (such as Gerry Harvey) are protected. There is no limit to the uses the government will make of your browsing history. Big Brother writ large. Where is Malcolm Turnbull in all this? He was railing against Conroy for proposing far less.

        Commenter
        Jace
        Date and time
        August 06, 2014, 10:33AM
        • At least they are doing something instead of hiding serious reports and not acting like Gillard did. Why is it that we never hear about labor utter failures and the ongoing problems they caused from Fairfax? Too preoccupied in bringing down Abbott than worry about the cause of the issues he is trying to fix.

          Commenter
          Southpark conservative
          Date and time
          August 06, 2014, 10:36AM
          • Little by little they take away freedoms to make society "safer". I'm sorry but I'm more fearful of what this government IS doing than what some half baked terrorist MAY do. When you give up freedoms in the name of fear then the terrorists have already won.

            Commenter
            RobE
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            August 06, 2014, 11:30AM
            • So I take it that, consistent with your opinion presented here RobE, that you support the repeal of s18C?

              There have been over 20 Australians convicted in this country of planning terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets.

              I agree that there should be concern about respecting privacy and using existing laws where possible.

              But a number of Australian agencies, and even the recent report by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor complied by Brett Walker SC, have warned that this current situation presents new challenges.

              Commenter
              Cam
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              August 06, 2014, 1:44PM

          More comments

          Comments are now closed

          Related Coverage

          Featured advertisers

          Special offers

          Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo