The Federal Government has passed a bill that gives the AFP new powers to hack and disrupt ‘dark web’ activities. 

The Identify and Disrupt Bill passed Parliament on Wednesday, allowing federal police and organised crime investigators to take over the online accounts of criminals. 

The laws were debated and passed in less than 24 hours, leading some to worry that important recommendations from a cross-party committee, particularly a call for judicial oversight, have been ignored.

The bill allows the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to penetrate the networks of criminals using domestic servers, operate on the dark web, and even modify or delete harmful content such as child exploitation material.

The powers are set to be reviewed independently after three years, then again by Parliament after four years and end after five. 

In response to concerns raised by Parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee, the bill includes some protections for journalists and third parties. 

However, the government has cast aside a recommendation for warrants to be approved by either a Federal or Supreme Court judge, rather than a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

The Law Council of Australia said not having judges issue the warrants is disappointing.

“These warrants have the potential to cause significant loss, damage or disruption to lawful computer users who are not suspected of any wrongdoing,” president Jacob Brasch said.

Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender has raised concerns that the government was rushing through the bill without allowing outside experts to examine it.

Mr Pender says the new powers are “unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive”.

“It is deeply concerning that the Morrison government is rushing this bill through parliament in two sitting days, having not yet published any changes in response to these bipartisan recommendations,” he told reporters. 

The security parliamentary committee said it accepts that the threat level is severe and agencies do not have adequate tools to combat it.

Labor committee members backed the government-majority committee's recommendations, but suggested the bill's phrasing of “relevant offences” be changed to “serious offences”.

Labor argued that the bill could see tax offences, trade mark infringements and a range of other non-violent crimes fall under this definition and be subject to the new powers.

“Rather than just ramming the bill through, the Morrison government should fully implement the committee's bipartisan recommendations,” Mr Pender said.