A major international drug bust involving Australian authorities has prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call for national security bills to be passed into law but a privacy expert is concerned politicians are using the publicity to push through proposals without proper debate.
A global police operation, involving the Australian Federal Police, was revealed on Tuesday morning following a sting that resulted in charges being laid against 224 alleged offenders across the country and many more internationally.
The drug bust was uncovered after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation devised its own encrypted messaging app, which criminals signed on to and communicated through unaware it was being monitored by law enforcement agencies in Australia and around the world.
Mr Morrison and AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw stood side by side to warn the public future threats could only be thwarted once more powerful national security laws passed.
"When our laws, which we don't have bipartisan support for changing, allow criminals to be able to get credentials and to be able to be on our ports, then that is something only the Parliament can shut down," Mr Morrison said.
"That's what we need to change and it should be passed now."
Shadow minister for home affairs Senator Kristina Keneally slammed Mr Morrison's comments as false, adding the opposition supported the powers and even advocated for "stronger laws".
Digital Rights Watch director and privacy expert Lucie Krahulcova said she was concerned Mr Morrison's speed to link the investigation's success to the passing on controversial national security proposals.
The move to push through tougher laws in light of a shocking event was one straight from the playbook, she said.
"What we're seeing play out is a textbook example," Ms Krahulcova said.
"It's hard for anyone in government to be in opposition because it really puts it as though you're arguing against catching criminals - that's a very deliberate framing.
"When there's a national security crisis, whether it's terrorism or some ginormous crime ring, it's used to push national security legislation that would not otherwise pass."
Among the three bills before parliamentarians is the Identify and Disrupt Bill, which grants law enforcement agencies the ability to commandeer social media accounts.
The three proposed powers for the AFP and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission provide the agencies with the ability to obtain data disruption warrants, monitor network activity and to covertly take control of online accounts, including social media sites.
It also removes the need for judicial oversight when requesting warrants so suspects, even if they're never charged, will never be aware they were watched, Ms Krahulcova said.
"What a lot of this legislation does is really remove power from individuals," she said.
"No one cares about your individual right to defend yourself, you no longer have a right to know that you're being surveilled, and you might never know."
Ms Krahulcova said the democratic process was crucial to getting complicated bills like these right but Mr Morrison's comments only served to muddy the waters for a robust policy debate.
"They think that they can be on a permanent crusade against criminals and the collateral damage doesn't matter because it makes for good PR," Ms Krahulcova said.
"This is not an informed policy debate and it can't be because you've taken the microphone, and you've taken the spotlight and you're manipulating public discussion and public perception.
"People can't have a conversation in an environment like that."
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