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Page last updated at 03:38 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 04:38 UK

Australia plans new terror laws

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A police officer with a dog in Melbourne
Police may get new powers under the amended terror laws

Australia has announced plans to amend its anti-terrorism legislation to give more power to the police.

It will also change the definition of terrorism to include psychological as well as physical harm.

The Australian government says the alterations are necessary because the country faces a "significant threat" of attacks by extremists.

Australia has gradually extended laws on detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects since 2001.

Safeguards

The government wants to toughen the legislation by allowing police to search property without a warrant.

Australia also plans to broaden the definition of a terrorist to include individuals planning to inflict psychological damage as well as those intending to cause physical injury.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland outlined the changes to the federal parliament in Canberra.

Critics have insisted the planned changes would sweep away fundamental legal safeguards, notably the need for the judiciary to approve a police request to search a suspect's home.

Australia's Labor government has pointed out that among its amendments are elements that will soften existing anti-terror legislation.

These include plans to limit the amount of time that detainees can be held without charge to eight days.

Civil libertarians have argued, however, that 72 hours should be sufficient.

The plans were announced after five men were arrested this month in Melbourne for allegedly planning a suicide attack on an Australian army base.



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