Committee eyes national security boost

RECORDS of every Australian's telephone and internet use could be kept for up to two years, under a Federal Government proposal to reform national security laws.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon on Tuesday tasked a parliamentary committee to conduct hearings on several government ideas to expand information retention, warrants and surveillance work by authorities.

In an extensive reform proposal from Ms Roxon's office, the intelligence community is looking to upgrade Australia's national security framework to keep up with changes in technology use by Australians.

Among the proposals was an idea for internet services providers and telecommunications companies to keep records of every Australian for up to two years.

Another change would be to warrants to search suspect's computers - expanding warrants to include any computers associated with a person or address of interest, rather than just the computers known to authorities at the time of the execution of a warrant.

The proposals come under three headings: matters the government wishes to progress; matters the government is considering; matter on which the government expressly seeks the views of the committee.

Under those matters the government wants to progress were standardising warrants, reducing the number of agencies able to access communications, removing legislative duplication and simplifying information sharing provision to help different authorities work together.

A discussion paper from Ms Roxon's office showed concerns that the government could lose the ability to access communications, which could reduce the government's ability to detect, investigate and prosecute threats to national security.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was vocal in his opposition to any reforms to expand the powers of Australia's intelligence authorities.

"This inquiry will likely be used to again expand the powers of spy agencies when Australians are already under a phenomenal amount of government surveillance," he said.

"In regards to the telecommunications interception - we need to see much stronger safeguards on when interceptions can be carried out and on which agencies can execute them."

The proposals - if taken up - would represent the biggest change to Australia's intelligence gathering ability since 2001, when major reforms were carried out in response to the September 11 terrorist attacked in the United States.

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