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Secrecy of information, treason, espionage and sabotage target of new Bill

The Law Council has prepared a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017.

The Bill seeks to amend and introduce offences in the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) that target the activities of foreign actors, and those acting on their behalf, who seek to work against Australia’s interests through a variety of means, including by obtaining classified information or seeking to influence the outcome of Australia’s democratic process.

The Bill, if enacted, would make significant changes to a range of Commonwealth criminal offences, including (but not limited to) creating new offences for treason, espionage, foreign interference, sabotage, interference with political rights and duties, damaging Commonwealth property, false or misleading conduct in relation to a security clearance and secrecy contraventions.

The Law Council considers many of the offence provisions are broadly drafted to capture a range of benign conduct that may not necessarily amount to harm or prejudice Australia’s interests and as such, considers the Bill should not proceed as currently drafted.

Should the Bill proceed, the Law Council has made a number of recommendations towards improving the offence provisions proposed by the Bill.

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