16 Jul 2014

Australia bolsters spy agency powers

10:14 pm on 16 July 2014

Australia is beefing up powers it gives intelligence agencies in response to growing concerns about jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq.

Attorney-General George Brandis.

Attorney-General George Brandis. Photo: AAP

The government is asking Parliament to expand the ability of spies to hack computer networks, allow more flexible warrants and improve cooperation between different intelligence agencies, the ABC reports.

David Irvine, the head of domestic spy agency ASIO, said the changes would help prevent a terrorist attack on Australian soil.

Attorney-General George Brandis told reporters on Wednesday he is looking at forcing phone and internet companies to retain data for up to two years about their customers' phone and internet use.

"The question of data retention is under active consideration by the government. I might point out to you that as recently as yesterday the House of Commons passed the new data retention statute. This is very much the way in which Western nations are going."

The British legislation is supported by the three main parties there but opposed by civil liberties campaigners, who say it is intrusive and seeks to legalise activities the European Union has ruled unlawful.