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SHARE: Dutton's new spy powers explained

Peter Dutton has a plan to give ASIO unprecedented powers to track, surveil and interrogate citizens.

But opposition is mounting – with pressure from lawyers, experts and everyday people. And as a vote on the new law comes closer Labor has criticised the changes, asking for key safeguards to be upheld.1

If thousands of us share this video before parliament goes back we'll prove just how much community outrage there is against Dutton's latest power grab.

Peter Dutton's new spy laws: explained

Heard about Peter Dutton's sweeping new surveillance powers? Let a lawyer break them down for you in 60 seconds ⏰

Posted by GetUp! on Wednesday, 11 November 2020
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On 13 May, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton tabled amendments to the ASIO Act which included the following changes:
  • Lowering of the minimum age of children who may be subject to coercive questioning, from 16 years to 14 years.
  • Greater tracking and surveillance powers. It would give ASIO the power to slip a "non-intrusive" tracking device into, for example, an open handbag, without external authority or a warrant in some circumstances. This could be done to journalists and whistleblowers.
  • Limiting access to a lawyer. Proposed limitations on a person's right to have a lawyer of their choice present during questioning, and an ability to remove lawyers from questioning sessions if deemed "disruptive".
  • Expanding the powers of search and seizure available to, or for the benefit of, ASIO in connection with questioning warrants.
  • Going beyond terrorism. Broadening the types of ASIO cases that could trigger questioning warrants, allowing them to used in relation to espionage, politically motivated violence and acts of foreign interference, rather than just in relation to potential terrorism offences.
The bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the community is still waiting on their report and recommendations. This committee only includes politicians from the major parties and is chaired by Coalition MP Andrew Hastie.
GetUp members chipped in to obtain independent legal advice investigating Dutton's proposed changes, and how we can stop them.

Here's what the team of top barristers found:
  • Peter Dutton's push to expand ASIO powers would have a chilling effect on press freedom, journalists ability to do their job, and intimidate whistleblowers from speaking out.
  • Journalists aren't provided any protection under these laws and could face five years jail for refusing to reveal their sources.
  • The advice specifically warns these laws would have a "chilling effect on the willingness of people to speak to journalists about issues of political significance…. [and] a decrease in media coverage and reporting on those matters thereby inhibiting public debate".
  • ASIO's powers would be so far-reaching that they could be used to clamp down on civil society organisations and political advocacy groups, including environment, human rights, and refugee groups.
  • Legal experts say this could "undermine the important role played by civil society organisations in holding government to account".
  • The proposal to lowering the age of questioning from 16 to 14, and powers that would be given to ASIO to interrogate children as young as 14, would be a breach of Australia's international obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • These changes would make Australia a world leader in state-sanctioned tracking of citizens and coercive questioning powers - going further than any other Five Eyes country.

  • Politicians from across the spectrum should listen to legal experts and block these dangerous changes from becoming law. But first, they need to read it. Help send this legal advice to those who need to see it most.
Not loading on mobile? You can also read and download the full advice here

[1] Labor fights to keep safeguard on Asio's interrogation powers, The Guardian, 12 November 2020

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