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'Flat out lying': PM's use of mafia bust to push for tougher police laws enrages Labor

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has used a stunning international organised crime bust to pressure the opposition to back tougher checks for airport and maritime workers.

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More than 20 murder plots were foiled, mass drug importations stopped and more than 100 people charged in the audacious sting.

The prime minister stood alongside Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw and the FBI’s legal attache from the US embassy, Anthony Russo, as he called for Labor to support three bills.

One would stop workers with links to organised crime or with a history of offending from gaining aviation and maritime security cards.

Labor has criticised the bill for leaving a hole in Australia’s border security regime because it fails to apply to foreign crew on ships.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has warned the legislation forces authorities to predict whether someone would commit a future crime.

Labor wants a more targeted scope and the legislation delayed until a separate bill is passed to ensure local employees aren’t subject to more stringent tests than foreign transport workers.

Morrison said the government attempted to pass the legislation through three consecutive parliaments.

“This is critical to ensure that criminals don’t get on to our wharves, that they can’t access security credentials,” he said.

“I don’t know why they’re being protected. I can’t give you an answer to that. We want to shut it down.”

The second Morrison government bill would allow national agencies to intercept communications in foreign countries which Australia has agreements with.

Morrison said the bill lacked support from across the political divide despite parliament’s bipartisan security and intelligence committee recommending it be passed with amendments.

An inquiry into the bill called for safeguards around international data sharing agreements to prevent information being used to punish people with the death penalty or targeting Australian citizens.

A third proposal to give law enforcement agencies more powers to combat serious crimes using the dark web is before the joint security and intelligence committee.

Morrison also claimed the bill did not have bipartisan support, sparking an incredulous response from Senator Keneally.

“It’s just wrong of Mr Morrison to say, to impute, to claim that Labor doesn’t support this bill. He’s just flat out lying,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“He can’t even make a claim as to what his own members on the intelligence and security committee will say about this legislation because it is currently under consideration.”

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said law enforcement needed powers in the bill to stay a step ahead of criminals on the dark web.

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