Australian PM announces plans to strengthen counter terror laws

Austrian Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday his government will beef up counter terror laws to fight the threat of attacks in Australia.

"We are unfortunately living in an era and a time when unusual but necessary measures are needed to cope with an unusual and threatening situation," Howard said in a nationally televised news conference in Canberra.

"I believe these measures do provide a lot of extra protection," Howard added.

Among the proposed new measures, federal police will be empowered to closely monitor terror suspects for up to a year, including fitting them with tracking devices and restricting people they mix with, Howard said.

Police also will be given new powers to hold people for up to 14 days without charge if they are suspected of being involved in planning or carrying out a terror act.

Howard said he also will empower authorities to refuse to grant Australian citizenship to immigrants if they are considered a security risk and lengthen the time new migrants have to wait for citizenship from two to three years.

The government also intends to toughen penalties against people who incite violence and make it a crime to leave luggage unattended at airports.

Most of the proposals are expected to be passed by Howard's government, which controls both houses of the federal Parliament, but others will require that legislation be passed by state governments _ all of which are controlled by the Labor Party, which is in opposition in the federal Parliament.

"I expect a lot of cooperation from the states on this," Howard said.

Howard said he would explain the proposals to state government leaders at a counterterrorism summit on Sept. 27, reports the AP.

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