Abbott can 'manage' new security laws with torture concerns

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott. AAP Image - Nikki Short

AFTER a key Senate crossbencher raised concerns new national security laws could allow torture, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was "confident" the government could "manage these things".

Mr Abbott, on ABC Radio on Friday, said while the government "resolutely opposes the use of torture", he erred on the side of "keeping our community safe" from terrorism.

His comments followed more than 800 federal and state police descending on homes across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Thursday during what were described as the biggest national security raids in Australian history.

But as the government moves to arrest people associated with terrorist activity abroad, it also has new reforms to national security laws afoot, with bipartisan support.

Those reforms, which a parliamentary committee recommended passing earlier this week, raised the ire of crossbench Senator David Leyonhjelm, who was concerned the legislation may allow torture.

The laws, which also criminalise the reporting of "special intelligence operations', include broad measures that allow immunity for authorities involved in such operations, if the conduct does not result in deaths or injury.

But Mr Abbott told ABC on Friday while the government opposed torture, he was rather "determined to err on the side of keeping our community safe".

"Look, the last thing anyone wants to see is Australians lose their freedom in the fight to preserve freedom and I'm confident that we can manage these things," he said.

His comments followed an increase in security at Parliament House on Friday; with the federal police brought in to patrol the House after "chatter" among terrorist networks was reported.

Mr Abbott said security was ramped up after a review of security measures a week ago, and information from intelligence agencies that the House and other government buildings were mentioned in intercepted communications.

But he said no specific terror threat was identified, despite the talk of potential government targets, saying the best thing for the public to do was "go about their business".


Topics:  government politics terrorism

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