SYDNEY - Australia's government will seek broad new security powers to combat what it says is a rising threat from militant Islamists, the attorney general said on Monday, on the heels of sweeping counter-terrorism raids last week involving hundreds of police.
Under the tough legislation, which Attorney-General George Brandis said would be introduced into the Senate on Wednesday, it would be a crime for an Australian citizen to travel to any area overseas once the government has declared it off-limits.
Although the United States and several European countries are weighing legal measures to stop their citizens fighting in conflicts in the Middle East, Australia's proposed law appears to go farther than any other in actually barring entire regions.
Australia is concerned over the number of its citizens believed to be fighting overseas with militant groups, including a suicide bomber who killed three people in Baghdad in July and two men shown in images on social media holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
"We will be introducing a new offense and that is the offense of traveling to a zone or a locality, I should say declared by the minister for foreign affairs to be a declared locality," Brandis told reporters in Canberra.
Brandis said the legislation would carve out exemptions for some Australian citizens, provided they can prove that they have a valid reason for being in a "declared area", such as journalists or visiting family members.