The Australian Parliament passes ASIO bill

Harvey Newstrom (
Wed, 1 Dec 1999 10:34:16 -0500

26/11/99 05:41

The Australian Parliament passes ASIO bill William Maher, Newswire

Parliament has passed laws that allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to tap into and alter data on private computer systems.

The ASIO Amendment Bill 1999 passed the Senate yesterday, giving federal authorities the power to tap into private computer systems for surveillance purposes. This is the first time in 13 years a major change has
been made to the ASIO Act 1979.

While the legislation gained bipartisan support, some members expressed concern that bill was rushed through Parliament. Senator Bolkus noted yesterday that the Senate had waited four or five months to debate the bill.
"We could have spent more time in the analysis period," he said in Parliament.

Labor has also expressed concern that the law allows ASIO to add, delete or alter data on remote computers. An amendment has subsequently been made that says data can only be altered if it is "necessary" to obtain access to data.

The change hasn't appeased the Democrats, who claim that the new law is a serious breach of Australians' privacy. Deputy leader Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said that the laws could be intentionally misused to plant evidence. "The government has found quite a convenient excuse for significant new excursions into personal surveillance," she said.

Privacy groups are angry that the bill gives ASIO the power to tap into private computer systems. Consumer group Financial Services Consumer Policy Centre has previously called on the Senate to reject the bill, claiming
it contains "serious flaws" (see story).

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Harvey Newstrom <mailto://>
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