Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) with AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw (centre) and FBI spokesman Anthony Russo (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

When Scott Morrison took the podium to tell the world about Australia’s role in an audacious international crime sting, he also took the opportunity to play politics.

The prime minister, flanked by the Australian Federal Police commissioner and a representative for the FBI, didn’t let the truth get in the way of an attempt to wedge his opposition on national security.

Morrison spruiked three bills before the parliament as necessary for Australia’s border security, and pointed his finger at Labor as an obstacle to their passage: “It’s time that these three bills get bipartisan support through the parliament so the commissioner and the other commissioners around the country can better do their jobs.”

But all these bills aren’t opposed only by Labor, as claimed by Morrison. They have raised concerns on his own side of politics as well.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020, which would allow Australia to share surveillance data with other countries, has been given the tick of approval from the bipartisan parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security pending proposed changes agreed upon by Labor and Liberal committee members.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill, which gives new surveillance warrants to law enforcement agencies, is still being reviewed by the committee — again, not an issue of a lack of partisan support.

The air and transport security bills before parliament do not have bipartisan support in their current form. Labor has indicated its support but wants the government to include stricter restrictions on foreign crews.

Morrison’s rather obvious lie was quickly called out. Labor Senator Kristina Keneally, who sits on the bipartisan committee, tweeted: “Mr Morrison this morning flat-out lied about national security. He sees everything through a political lens. He’s playing games with national security.”

The takeaway from an incredibly intricate and sophisticated years-long operation was, according to Morrison and law enforcement representatives, that Australia was somehow still not adequately equipped to protect national security.

Their solution? As ever, a continued expansion of the surveillance state and a further erosion of Australians’ privacy.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey