Prime Minister warns that protection and counter-terrorism are now high priorities.
Australians will have to put up with inconvenience and tougher security for "some time to come" as the world tackles terrorism, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned.
Parliament resumed yesterday just days after police mounted the country's largest anti-terrorist operation. While most of those detained have now been released without charge, one Sydney man faces a charge of conspiring with Isis (Islamic State) extremists with intent to kidnap a random person and conduct a beheading on camera.
Abbott told Parliament such operations, as well as the introduction of new security measures at airports and new counter-terrorism laws, were necessary to deal with extremists. "Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we're used to, and more inconvenience than we would like. For some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift ... so that there can be more protection."
One of the inconveniences will be biometric screening to be introduced at international airports by late 2015.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (pictured below) said keeping people safe was "above politics". But, as Australian special forces and RAAF members in the United Arab Emirates await orders for a mission into Iraq, Shorten said Labor had a number of conditions on its support. "Our support ... is a calculation of conscience and national interest," Shorten said.
Labor and the Government are also in talks to amend proposed counter-terrorism laws. Attorney-General George Brandis spelled out some of the changes yesterday, saying he had agreed to explicitly ban torture by Australian spies and imposing a 2025 sunset clause on new police and ASIO powers of control and detention. Labor and a number of Senate crossbenchers have been critical that one part of a bill to give ASIO extra powers could allow the use of torture under some circumstances.
The Government had planned to indemnify ASIO officers against all criminal offences committed in the course of their undercover work except for homicide, causing serious injury, sexual assault and serious damage to property. Torture would be added to that list.
The first tranche of the new laws, dealing with ASIO's powers, is expected to pass within the fortnight. A second tranche, making it a criminal offence to travel to a terrorist hotspot, will be introduced this week but not passed until later in the year.
Parliament House security was stepped up as MPs and senators returned to Canberra, with armed police patrolling the building and the ministerial wing locked down.
George Williams, a University of New South Wales legal expert, said the amendment to specifically prohibit torture was necessary to prevent intelligence officers from being able to torture with impunity.
Williams said some of the laws went too far. He said the United States and Britain both had a higher terrorism threats than Australia, but neither country had the equivalent of Australia's preventative detention orders. Under such orders, suspected terrorists can be held for up to 14 days without charge. The suspects aren't allowed to disclose their whereabouts, even to family. The orders, which were introduced in 2005, were used for the first time last week with the raid arrests.
Abbott's security update
• Tony Abbott heads to New York for discussions at the United Nations about terrorism and foreign fighters.
• The Australian Cabinet will consider the use of Australian forces to mount air strikes and provide military advice in Iraq.
• An urgent review of Parliament House security recommended that Australian Federal • Police take control of internal as well as external security.
• More Border Force officers are being deployed at major airports.
• Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor supported Australian military personnel carrying out a "clearly defined mission" in Iraq.
• That support was based on four conditions: no combat units directly engaging in fighting Isis, operations being confined to Iraq, a pullout when the Iraqi Government can take full responsibility for security and withdrawal if Iraqi forces engage in "unacceptable conduct or adopt unacceptable policies".
• Shorten said that combating terrorism would need more than just military involvement.