AS concerns increase over Australians joining Islamist jihadists in the Middle East, western Victorian MP Dan Tehan is working to tighten security in case they return home as terrorism risks.
The Hamilton-based member for Wannon holds a key role as chairman of the federal parliamentary committee Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, tasked with reviewing proposed tighter laws tabled by Attorney-General George Brandis this week.
Mr Tehan has just returned from an international conference in London where he rubbed shoulders with security agency representatives from 18 nations who shared similar concerns.
The conference looked at the complex balance between protecting an individual’s right to privacy while also ensuring their security plus the challenges in providing transparent oversight of intelligence agencies.
“These issues are happening as we speak,” Mr Tehan told The Standard yesterday.
“Western nations are becoming more and more concerned by their citizens going to Iraq and Syria to fight.
“It leads to radicalisation and upskilling their ability to carry out terrorist attacks.
“It is a present and real danger to our country — we’ve seen them return home radicalised.”
Mr Tehan said the package of legislation introduced to Parliament by Senator Brandis modernised laws which dated back to 1979 and would allow intelligence sharing between domestic and international security agencies.
“However, protection of privacy rights remain a key consideration,” Mr Tehan said.
“It modernises and strengthens ASIO’s warrant-based intelligence collection.
“The legislation is also aimed at unauthorised disclosure of intelligence information.
“Penalties will increase for those who leak — there’s a new offence for stealing information and compromising it.
“Previously if you stole information, but didn’t pass it on it wasn’t classed as a security offence.
“There’s a balance between protecting national security and protecting privacy.”
Mr Tehan said the Brandis legislation was being reviewed in depth by his committee and should be ready to be put to a parliamentary vote by late August.