Australia flags much stronger anti-terror laws

SYDNEY • Australia unveiled plans yesterday to hold terror suspects for 14 days without charge and beef up its national database to include biometric data from drivers' licences.

New South Wales already permits detention for 14 days, but other states and territories allow only a week or less, and the federal government wants to standardise the law, reported Agence France-Presse.

"We need nationally consistent pre-charge detention laws, so those who seek to do us harm can be held to account no matter where they are," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"There is no place for set-and-forget with national security," he added, reported the BBC.

Australia's national terror alert level was raised in September 2014 amid concerns of attacks by individuals inspired by organisations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), reported Agence France-Presse.

The authorities said 13 attacks have been prevented in the past few years but several others have taken place, including a Sydney cafe siege in which two hostages were killed in 2014.

The latest thwarted attack allegedly involved an ISIS-directed plot to bring down a plane using poisonous gas or a crude bomb disguised as a meat mincer.

Mr Turnbull is pushing for driver's licence photos to be added to a national database that already includes passport pictures and immigration data, so police can identify suspected terrorists more quickly. He also wants to make it an offence to possess "instructional" material that could be used to carry out terror attacks.

In addition, nationally consistent laws on terror hoaxes are also under consideration, the BBC reported.

Mr Turnbull intends to put the proposals to state and territory leaders at a special national security meeting in Canberra today.

Yesterday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian outlined a plan to give the Supreme Court powers to keep prisoners in jail once their sentence is over if they are deemed likely to commit terror offences when released.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'Australia flags much stronger anti-terror laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe