State and Territory Leaders Agree on Sweeping National Security Measures

Terrorism suspects could be held for up to 14 days without charge and driver’s license photos of millions of Australians would be added to a facial recognition database under proposed new counter-terrorism laws.

On October 5, the Council of Australian Governments met in Canberra to discuss the integration between Commonwealth and local, state and territory agencies to combat an “elevated” terrorist threat in Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed a “national facial biometric matching” system that would allow law and intelligence agencies to have instant access to a national database of faces.

He dismissed concerns about mass surveillance, arguing the photo ID information is already available and that the new program would pool together driver’s licenses, visas, and passports. He said there would not be real-time scanning of CCTV footage to identify potential threats, but rather a database that security officials at locations such as sports venues and airports could have instant access to.

The state and territory leaders backed the hard line approach. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wanted the technology ahead of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Other national security agreements included a new measures that would allow authorities to hold terrorism suspects for up to a fortnight without charge. Harsher penalties would also be introduced for persons in possession of instructions on how to undertake a terror attack, as well as making it a criminal offence to launch a hoax terror attack.

News Corp reported that the entire meeting lasted less than two and a half hours, with many of the agreements being passed with little to no resistance. Credit: The PMO via Storyful