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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Government agrees to amend emergency power laws

 CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- The Australian government has agreed to amend proposed legislation that would allow troops to respond to Olympic terrorist threats.

 Attorney-general Daryl Williams on Wednesday said the government would accept the inclusion of safeguards in the laws to strictly define what powers the military would be granted in emergency situations.

 The legislation is expected to go back before the Senate next week and is expected to be passed in time for the Sydney Olympics next month.

 The New South Wales state police service has overall control of Olympic security and is responsible for co-ordinating all defence and intelligence agencies during the games.

 Under the proposed legislation, the Commonwealth of Australia would be empowered to deploy troops to assist state police with the release of hostages, detain suspects, search premises, erect barricades and deal with bombs to protect the national interest.

 The prime minister, the defence minister or attorney-general would be authorized to call in the military, but would not be able to delegate that power.

 The move has sparked concern that the Commonwealth could override the authority of the various state governments, which currently have responsibility for security issues within their borders but still have the right to call in troops in emergencies.

 Senator Bob Brown, of the Green Party, has said that the wording of the legislation is too vague and could open the door to soldiers being deployed to quell civil unrest or even shoot protesters.

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