26 Sep 2014

New Australian counter-terrorism laws

7:12 am on 26 September 2014

Australia's Senate has passed a law that will strengthen the powers of the country's intelligence agency and make it easier for security agencies to spy on Australians overseas.

Australian terror raid

Australian Federal Police officers detaining a terror suspect in Sydney. Photo: AFP

The new laws will make it easier for security agencies to access personal computers and spy on Australians overseas and will toughen penalties for those who disclose the identity of intelligence officers, the ABC reported.

The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill would increase the penalty for disclosing secret information to up to 10 years' imprisonment - a measure that could lead to journalists being jailed.

It also gives ASIO officers criminal and civil immunity from prosecution under a newly defined covert "special intelligence operation" and enables Australia's overseas spy agency ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) to spy on Australians overseas and to cooperate with ASIO with less executive oversight.

The bill passed with the support of the Coalition, Labor and Palmer United Party senators.

However, the Greens, Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm and independent senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan all opposed the bill, some sighting concerns about the unintended consequences of the laws.

A raft of new counter-terrorism laws are being introduced in three stages and aim to bolster the powers of security agencies and make it easier to identify and prosecute Australians involved in terrorist activities.

The bill will go to the lower house next week for final approval.

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