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National security laws pass parliament

A slate of national security laws including allowing intelligence agencies to conduct operations when there is an imminent safety risk for Australians have passed parliament.

The new laws allow some of Australia’s intelligence agencies to seek approval from the relevant minister to conduct intelligence on Australians involved with, or likely to be involved with, terrorist organisations.

Immunity provisions for staff of intelligence agencies were also expanded while the scope for when ministerial approval to produce intelligence on an Australian were narrowed.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the changes allow intelligence agencies to respond to threats quicker and strike the right balance between individual freedoms and protecting the community.

“Terrorist acts can evolve rapidly from planning to implementation. The ability to quickly produce intelligence can be the difference between an attack occurring or being successfully foiled,” she said.

“Too often governments are forced to act in the midst of a crisis. Australians will be better protected through these amendments which allow intelligence agencies to act quickly where an Australian is facing imminent harm, such as an offshore kidnapping.”

The national security amendments were passed alongside the second tranche of cyber-security laws for critical infrastructure like banks and telcos.

Essential services will need a critical infrastructure risk management program and enhanced cyber security obligations for systems of national significance.

The first tranche beefed up powers for Australian cyber spies to intervene in major attacks across a wide range of essential services and introduced mandatory reporting of cyber incidents.

The federal government also passed laws cracking down on gun trafficking, which increases the minimum and maximum penalties for new aggravated offences.

The new laws double the maximum penalty for existing firearm trafficking offences from 10 to 20 years in prison and introduces a new offence for the trafficking of 50 or more firearms or firearm parts.

The new offence carries a five year minimum prison sentence for adults but the court has the discretion to reduce this minimum if the offender pleads guilty or cooperates with law enforcement.

The laws passed with the support of Labor in a late night Senate sitting on Wednesday, the last day the upper house sat before the upcoming federal election.

The Greens initially tried to amend the bill to condemn mandatory sentencing but failed.

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