News National Federal government wants licence photos for expanded facial surveillance

Federal government wants licence photos for expanded facial surveillance

Facial recognition
The Home Affairs department suggests using its proposed facial verification system to confirm someone's age online before they watch porn or gamble online. Photo: Getty
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The threat of hacking won’t be enough to stop the federal government from collecting the photos of every licensed Australian driver to expand its facial recognition system.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will urge state and territory leaders to hand over licence details at a special national security summit in Canberra on Thursday.

He will also push for new federal laws to allow terrorist suspects to be held without charge for up to two weeks, among other proposals.

Mr Turnbull said adding driver licences to the federal government’s database of passport and immigration information will allow authorities to more quickly identify people suspected of or involved in terrorist activities.

The technology could be used, for example, in surveillance at airports and shopping malls.

“It’s simply a question of using technology and being proactive – not being complacent,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged there was a risk that such big and complex data could be compromised but said steps will be taken to ensure it is protected.

“You can’t allow the risk of hacking to prevent you from doing everything you can to keep Australians safe,” he said.

The prime minister has also moved to allay concerns about a proposal to allow terrorist suspects to be held without charge for up to two weeks.

As it stands, only police in NSW have the power to detain a person for questioning for up to 14 days – with most states allowing only a maximum of seven.

Mr Turnbull wants nationally consistent pre-charge detention laws and has been working on a stronger regime that gets around some legal impediments.

The proposal is set to double the initial investigation period from four to eight hours before a person has to be released, or an extension is sought.

It will also simplify complex provisions in the existing legislation to give police a clear cap on the maximum period of detention.

He insists there will be appropriate oversight, as there is with existing detention laws.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the renewed push follows concerns by agencies who helped foil a plot to bring down a plane in Sydney earlier this year.

“We got advice from our police force that it might have been useful to have some extra time to question suspects,” he told ABC radio.

The states and territories will also be asked to consider new criminal offences to target people who possess material that could be used to prepare or carry out a terrorist act – similar to laws around the possession of child porn.

That could include accessing instructions to build bombs or techniques to blow up planes, even if they don’t intend or commit to act on it.

“There’s no legitimate purpose or justification for having information like that and that should be an offence,” Mr Turnbull said.

A new Commonwealth offence for terrorism hoaxes will also be put to leaders, to cover things like falsely claiming a knife or vehicle attack and more consistent jail term for such offences.


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