Australia

A lift in agency power needs voter backing

The Australian Signals Directorate reportedly wants greater power to tackle domestic cyber crime. (AAP)

Senior Labor MP Amanda Rishworth says any increase of power among intelligence agencies to tackle cyber crime would need the confidence of voters.

Any increase in the power of Australia's intelligence agencies to tackle cyber crime would need the confidence of the Australian people, a senior federal Labor frontbencher says.

Amanda Rishworth believes the recent Australian Federal Police raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist has damaged confidence about whether Australians can trust their government.

"I think there is a lot of questions that would have to be worked through incredibly carefully and it would need the confidence of the Australian people," Ms Rishworth told ABC television on Saturday.

She was responding to reports in Nine newspapers that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) could smash computer network crime domestically by broadening its target beyond its present overseas oversight.

The report said national security officials are also discussing how the ASD could sit within the networks of major Australian power, water, telecommunications and other critical infrastructure companies to help defend them against cyber attacks.

Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski said the coalition government under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull invested much time and energy into such issues.

"It is not something that the parliament talks about because security matters are best not spoken about openly," Mr Falinski told ABC television.

"But you can't guarantee the liberty of people if you can't guarantee their safety."

Under the Turnbull government a centre for cyber security was set up to look at essential services like power, electricity and banking for example.

"Imagine if the banking network went off line for 24 hours what disruption that would cause," Mr Falinski said.

Described as using "offensive cyber operations", it would mean addressing a crime before it happens rather than investigating it after the fact.

"We know that cyber-terrorism, cyber-crime is an increasing complex problem and does put us all at risk," Ms Rishworth said.

"I think any issue like this needs to be worked through, not only with the right oversights, but ensuring that you give confidence to the public that it would be used in a way that is in their interests and not necessarily to harm Australian citizens."

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