A timeline of digital rights legislation in Australia
LIBERAL/NATIONAL COALITION GOVERNMENT ELECTED MARCH 1996
A major terrorist attack on New York City sparks governments around the world to review counter-terrorism operations and tighten security approaches at airports, ports and borders.
New offences prohibit intentionally collecting or making documents or 'possessing a thing' connected to terrorism. It is an 'inchoate' offence, punishing preparatory acts, even if they did not lead to a terrorist act. Penalties of up to 25 years' jail.
Asio granted power to interrogate non-suspects for up to 24 hours and detain them for up to seven days, a system unique in the western world. 'Repeat warrants' can be sought, refreshing time limits. Children as young as 16 can be detained if reasonably suspected of involvement/planning in terrorism. Act also permits covert surveillance of non-suspects.
Australian Federal Police granted extension of powers to stop, frisk and search suspected terrorists and to obtain information and documents
Anti-Terrorism Act introduces new offences of sedition, expanded to include the behaviour of ‘urging’ and the element of recklessness. Crimes attract a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.
LABOR GOVERNMENT ELECTED NOVEMBER 2007
Federal Government announced their intention to introduce an ISP-based filter to censor "inappropriate material" from the Internet to protect children
Federal Government releases a white paper outlining their strategy on countering terrorism, including planned reforms to security and law enforcement agencies.
Former US Army soldier turned whistleblower leaks classified information to WikiLeaks, included videos of US airstrikes in Baghdad, Iraq and Granai, Afghanistan.
Parliamentary Committee established to monitor and review the performance of the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police.
Sedition laws are amended to reflect recommendations from a Australian Law Reform Commission report. The new counter-terrorism laws cover attacks that cause psychological as well as physical harm and remove the term "sedition" to focus on crimes that urge violence.
Formation of a statutory independent executive oversight body responsible for the ongoing review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australian counter‑terrorism and national security legislation
Amendments passed to extend the mandate of ASIO to allow it to conduct telecommunications intercepts on behalf of other agencies
Laws passed that allow the Attorney-General to issue a search, computer access or listening device warrant to ASIO for the purposes of collecting intelligence when it is 'in the interests of Australia's national security, Australia's foreign relations or Australia's national economic wellbeing'.
Government abandons all plans for an Internet filter, instead requiring Australia's major Internet Service Providers to block child abuse websites on the INTERPOL ‘worst of’ child abuse list.
Former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals thousands of classified NSA documents and works with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill to publish details.
Federal Government releases Australia's first national security strategy, including plans to toughen Australia's cyber security defences.
LIBERAL/NATIONAL COALITION GOVERNMENT ELECTED SEPTEMBER 2013
Asio allowed to monitor entire computer networks, including using non-suspect computers to access target computers
Journalists can be jailed for revealing Asio's new 'special intelligence operations', even inadvertently
AFP granted power to search premises without warning or having to show warrant for up to one year
Telcos required to keep customers' metadata for up to two years and make data available to security agencies
Amendments to Australian copyright law are passed, allowing for the court-ordered censorship of non-domestic websites whose primary purpose is to facilitate copyright infringement.
New laws introduce a broad discretionary power for several Australian agencies to collect biometric data on both Australian citizens and non-citizens at the border and within Australia.
National database created to allow Commonwealth agencies and state law enforcement to try to match a photograph of an unknown person with photographs on government records, such as passports and driving licences.
The Australian Government publicly launches its first national cyber security strategy, housed in the department of Home Affairs.
Council of Australian Governments agrees to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the National Facial Biometric Capability.
New obligations introduced for organisations that store personal information to notify individuals when their security systems have been breached
National medical records database is switched from an 'opt-in' to an 'opt-out' system, making individuals have to manually de-register themselves.
New national security laws give law enforcement the power to crack down on foreign spies and cyber-operatives working in Australia. Government employees who leak classified information face tougher penalties, and new frameworks making it a crime to assist foreign spies working in Australia. Journalists are threatened with heavy prison sentences for reporting against 'Australian interests'
Powers contained in the Assistance & Access Act give law enforcement ability to compel technology companies to break encryption protocols. Refusal to comply results in fines and potential jail sentences, and gag orders imposed.
After the Christchurch terror attack, AFP given power to order social media platforms to take down violent materials
Australian Federal Police raid the homes and offices of journalist who covered allegations of unlawful killings by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and received leaked classified information on plans to expand surveillance powers.
A case over the validity of police warrants used to raid the ABC's Ultimo headquarters is dismissed by the Federal Court of Australia.