Proposed laws to expand and streamline Australia's spying and intelligence operations will allow an agency to spy on Australians in the country for the first time in its nearly 75-year lifetime.
But while experts say the changes won't result in a nationwide spying regime of Snowden proportions, they have warned the more shadowy intelligence agencies need "a dose of sunshine" to lift public confidence in privacy protections further deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews introduced another national security bill to the lower house on Thursday morning, which would implement a number of the changes put forward in a landmark review by former ASIO boss Dennis Richardson.
The bill, which amends nine pieces of legislation, would finally allow for the Australian Signals Directorate to undertake signals intelligence collecting on people within the country without the need of a warrant if there is an imminent risk to life.
It will also provide the signals agency with the ability to undertake domestic spying on suspected terror suspects, and collect intelligence in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force for military operations with ministerial authorisation.
"The measures I have outlined in the bill are designed to address or mitigate critical operational challenges faced by the national intelligence community," Ms Andrews said.
"It reflects the government's commitment to the continual improvement of Australia's robust national security laws to ensure that Australians are kept safe and our way of life is protected."
The agencies, which also includes ASIO, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the foreign-focused Australian Secret Intelligence Service, will be required to publicly publish privacy rules on their sites.
The security and intelligence parliamentary committee will be able to review and scrutinise these privacy rules.
It comes more than three years after former News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst reported on a leaked memo between senior officials discussing the granting of extraordinary powers to listen in on Australians without a warrant.
'We need to give them a dose of sunshine'
National Security College policy advisor Dr William Stoltz said these proposals were very different to the initial plans for ASD first reported on by Ms Smethurst in 2018.
A narrow scope for the powers to only be used in potential life-threatening events made it proportionate, he said.
"It's really about those quite time-sensitive, life or death, urgent moments where you need ASD to just be able to, in a matter of hours, pull together some intelligence," Dr Stoltz said.
"Because doing it in the established way, which is in close partnership with other agencies, is just a little bit too time and time intensive."
But his Australian National University colleague Professor John Blaxland said the federal government, and the national intelligence community, needed to be more transparent to ensure stronger public confidence in the powerful proposed laws.
The general public had developed a "bruised and damaged image" of national security concerns following the police raids on Ms Smethurst, he said.
Proposing broad-reaching powers coupled with a recent rise in distrust of authority could push some further into the arms of extremist fringe groups.
"If we're going to avoid adding to the momentum of the conspiracists' cause, we need to give [them] a dose of sunshine," he said.
"The fallout of the Annika Smethurst fiasco left a bruised and damaged image of the impartiality, of the dispassionate balancing, of national security concerns with the requirements in an open democratic society.
"I think ASD needs to be more transparent much like ASIO has sought to be more transparent."
Beyond the signals directorate's expansion of powers, the proposed laws will also extend domestic intelligence gathering abilities to the secret intelligence service and geospatial intelligence agency.
National security laws 'drafted by insiders'
The broad range of new powers proposed for the intelligence agencies will be given has Professor Blaxland concerned.
While he believes ASIO has made leaps in being transparent and assuring the public of the work they're conducting, other agencies remain hidden and shy of public outreach.
And while the national security has continued to grow considerably over the last two decades, its oversight body, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, has not.
The former military intelligence director said the IGIS needed funding and resources to make sure the national intelligence agencies were doing the job right.
"I'm a former practitioner, I'm a former insider but having worked on the history of intelligence, I have a much greater appreciation of the need for checks and balances," he said.
"Because power tends to corrupt.
"My concern is that the legislation that we put forward is being drafted by insiders, it's drafted with their own concerns in mind.