Longer timeframe for 'temporary' terror laws

Prime minister John Key has defended moves to lock new terror laws in place until 2018, three years longer than expected.

Key said it "makes sense" for the laws to expire after a wide-sweeping review of intelligence agencies was completed - but this is projected to be next year.

Key was forced to release the draft legislation yesterday, after a leaked copy revealed controversial "temporary" law changes to crack down on suspected foreign fighters would be in place until 2018.  

The document also revealed proposals that would see the passports of jihadi wannabies cancelled while the holders were overseas, leaving them stateless – in a breach of international law.

In a speech this month, Key outlined plans to stop New Zealanders leaving the country to join the Islamic State terrorist group in the Middle East.

He indicated the proposed law changes – which boost surveillance powers and allow passports to be cancelled for up to three years – would have a sunset clause and expire if not carried forward by the review of the intelligence services.

But a spokeswoman from Key's office said it was because of that review that a sunset clause of nearly four years was chosen.

That wider review would take some time and after a full select committee process, the legislative changes to result from it would probably be passed in 2017, she said.

"These changes will supersede those subject to the sunset clause in the current draft bill," she said.

"So in reality these changes could end sooner than the sunset clause date, depending on when the broader legislation is passed and what the broader review actually recommends." 

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Meanwhile, the Green Party has called on the Government to slow down the passage of the bill. 

Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said the proposed legislation had "serious flaws" and potentially breached international law.  

"The legislation should follow the accepted Parliamentary process, and experts and others should have the chance to analyse the law and understand its full implications, which on first blush appear to be many," he said.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was "cute" of the prime minister to imply legislation would be reviewed next year, but he was more concerned about its content.  

"If there is a case for the sort of measures they want to introduce, then let's hear what that is," Little said.

"I can't conceive of a situation where security services keeping people on a watchlist under observation, should need to undertake video surveillance without a warrant for a 48-hour period."

The Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill will give police and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) access to customs records and their database, also not previously flagged by the Government.

The SIS would be able to request a suspected terrorist be temporarily stripped of their travel documents for 10 working days without providing evidence, buying time to build a case for restricting travel.

The Government had also agreed to boost the SIS budget by $7 million and the agency was recruiting more staff.

Key said the changes were necessary because intelligence agencies had compiled a watch list of 30 to 40 people who wanted to join Islamic extremists waging war across Iraq and Syria.

He confirmed the legislation would be introduced tomorrow under urgency, and passed within three weeks.

 - Stuff

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