Security laws being rushed, MP claims

Karen Sweeney

The coalition and Labor are trying to rush through national security laws pegged on political self-interest ahead of next month's by-elections, an independent MP claims.

Andrew Wilkie, a former senior intelligence officer, says he's the first to fight for national security but says foreign interference laws before parliament are poorly crafted and will unnecessarily diminish civil rights.

The MP expects legislation will pass parliament's lower house on Tuesday afternoon, the same day a range of amendments was introduced to fix what Labor labelled "deeply flawed" proposals.

Mr Wilkie told parliament it was "absolute rot" that laws had to be in place ahead of five by-elections to be held on July 28.

"We should look at these things carefully and slowly and ultimately what this place passes is in our national security best interest and not in the political best interest of a govt or opposition," he said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt also spoke against the draft laws which he says take Australia further down the road of becoming the type of society the foreign interference laws are meant to protect the country from.

He claimed he only received the amendments 10 minutes before he spoke on the bills.

"It had to be amended to within an inch of its life and now that we've seen those amendments give us a chance to scrutinise them because if they don't do what you say then you've sold us all out and taken everyone for a ride," he said.

Labor is supporting the laws despite initial opposition.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said recommendations from parliament's security and intelligence committee mostly addressed civil society group and media concern around criminal sanctions against journalists reporting on national security matters and for academics who fail to register relationships with overseas universities.

"Clearly these outcomes would have been completely unacceptable to most Australians and it's concerning that the prime minister thought these measures, and others of a similar nature, were acceptable," he said.

Related legislation to secure a register for people acting on behalf of foreign governments, political organisations or individuals has also come before parliament with amendments.

Mr Dreyfus said the scope had been greatly narrowed to exempt media organisations, charities, arts and cultural organisations and trade unions.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who heads parliament's security and intelligence committee, said authoritarian states were using political warfare to undermine legitimacies of western democracies by targeting the media, political processes, financial networks and personal data.

"We need to take legislative action to secure our sovereignty, our political institutions and our economic prosperity," he said.

Amnesty International has supported exemptions for charities but continues to have concerns around accountability for human rights.