The tough new laws designed to boost the response capabilities of police during a terrorist emergency give authorities the ability to use existing gadgets for surveillance, including remotely installing software to use devices such as smart fridges or AI-powered home speakers as listening devices.
The laws, which are only in effect during a declared terrorist emergency, allow Queensland police to search people or vehicles without a warrant, as well as search mobile phones for communication with suspected offenders or footage of the attack.
In July, prior to the bill’s passage, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart suggested such powers could be used to turn your fridge into a listening device to help investigations.
“It is not outside the realm that, if you think about the connected home that we now look at quite regularly where people have their security systems, their CCTV systems and their computerised refrigerator all hooked up wirelessly, you could actually turn someone’s fridge into a listening device,” he told the Brisbane Times.
Such powers would only be used in a declared emergency when the life, health or safety of a person was thought to be in danger.
Acting Police Commissioner Peter Martin said the laws were a new, important tool for police.
“The security environment around the world is ever-changing and that means we must constantly review how to best deal with the threat of violent extremism,” he said in a statement after the laws were passed.
“These new laws will give our officers the ability to deal with these threats quickly and hopefully minimise the risk to the community.”
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the laws weren’t a response to a specific threat, but simply planning for every eventuality.
“Notwithstanding that reality, we should never lose sight of the fact that Queensland is a harmonious and multicultural society where there is a fundamental respect for the rights and liberties of all individuals,” he told parliament.
Meanwhile Opposition Police spokesman Tim Mander said hopefully the new powers will never be needed.
“We all hope that the powers being implemented in this legislation are never needed in Queensland but we should also be realistic,” he said. “These are extensive powers needed at this time but we must also ensure that they have the appropriate judicial oversight.”
A public interest monitor will be tasked with putting together an annual report on surveillance warrants to be handed to the state’s Police Minister and tabled in parliament.
Mr Ryan pointed out that since the laws were first introduced in June, there had been several high-profile international terror-related events that included the attack on a London mosque, a knife attack in Hamburg and two vehicle attacks in Spain that killed 16 people and injured more than 120.
— With AAP