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Australia moves to amend terror laws in response to possible threat

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] said Wednesday that he has received specific intelligence of a terrorist attack on the country, and urged lawmakers to strengthen the powers of Australian intelligence agencies. The news prompted Howard to hurriedly introduce [press conference transcript] an amendment [PDF text] to current counterterrorism laws in the Australian House of Representatives [official website]. The amendment would make it easier to prosecute a person for planning a terrorist act as it allows prosecution without identifying a specific terrorist act [press release]. This eliminates the need to find intelligence on details of a specific plot and will therefore allow terrorist groups to be banned on the basis of intelligence that the group was merely preparing an unspecified terrorist act. The House passed the legislation [ABC Australia report] Wednesday and the amendment will be taken up by Australia's Senate tomorrow. Although there has not been a major terrorist attack in Australia, Australian citizens have been repeatedly hit in overseas bombings such as the 2002 Bali attacks [BBC backgrounder], the 2004 attack at the Canberra embassy in Jakarta [BBC report] and, most recently, the October Bali bombings. AP has more.

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