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1 Mar, 2012

Australian Security Agencies Get More Extra-Territorial Surveillance Tools

Ministry for Home Affairs and Ministry for Justice, Australia

Canberra, 29 February 2012 — Australian Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare today said new laws had passed the Parliament which will streamline the work Australia does with other countries to tackle crime. The Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 passed the Parliament today.

The new laws support the work that the Australian Government and law enforcement agencies do with their international partners with measures including:

  • Streamlining the extradition process and cutting delays;
  • Allowing a person to waive the extradition process;
  • Allowing a person to consent to being surrendered for a wider range of offences;
  • Enabling any person to be prosecuted in Australia as an alternative to extradition;
  • Modifying the definition of ‘political offence’ to clarify this ground of extradition refusal does not include specific acts including terrorism;
  • Increasing the number of tools Australian law enforcement agencies can use to assist other countries with investigations including surveillance devices and forensic procedures;
  • Streamlining the process for authorising proceeds of crime action for agencies from other countries;
  • Streamlining the process for providing lawfully obtained telecommunications intercept and stored communications material to other countries; and
  • Increased protections, including providing specific grounds for refusing assistance to a foreign authority if it is believed it would result in a person being tortured and requiring Australia to refuse to extradite a person if he or she may be prejudiced by reason of his or her sex.

Mr Clare said the legislation updates laws which were drafted more than two decades ago. “Criminals should not be able to evade prosecution by crossing international borders,” Mr Clare said. “This legislation makes it easier for our law enforcement agencies to work with their partner countries and streamlines the process for extradition so criminals can be brought to justice faster.”

The Bill was subject to an extensive process of public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny including discussion papers, two releases of draft legislation and consultation with and scrutiny by the House of Representatives Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

Editor’s Comment – Who Will Police the Police?

This media release was issued by the Australian Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Mr Jason Clare. The expanded and updated law effectively gives the Australian security agencies greater extra-territorial surveillance tools. That may help keep Australian pedophiles out of Asia. On the other hand, it could have a significant impact on basic freedoms and human rights without proper check-and-balance mechanisms to ensure policing of the police.

Although trans-border security and safety is a major issue for travel & tourism, so far, it has been a one-way street, with a trust-us-we’re-security-people approach that the industry has been forced to accept. There has been virtually no debate at any industry level about the huge potential for abuse of power that inevitably follows.

The Australian release says the law was “subject to an extensive process of public consultation.” Was the Australian travel & tourism industry consulted? If so, what input did it provide? What access to redress is available to the public in an era when the borderline between safety & security, the freedom to travel, and basic democratic human rights is becoming increasingly blurred.

It would be good for the issue to be raised at an industry event, perhaps even the third annual Australian Tourism Directions Conference to be held in Canberra on 1 November 2012. I wouldn’t hold my breath, however.