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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10659


Mr BYRNE (Holt) (17:16): I rise today on this motion of condolence and commend the member for Berowra for his eloquent comments about his former colleague. I wish too to pay tribute to David, who lost his battle with cancer recently. In reflecting on David's life, we know he was born in Kingaroy, Queensland, and was previously the member for Bowman in this place from 1975 to 1983 and the member for Fadden from 1984 to 2007. We also reflect on his service as Minister for Administrative Services from 1996 to 1997.

I was very fortunate and also very pleased and very honoured to work with David on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for a brief period of time before it became that particular committee and for two years afterwards. David was chair of this parliamentary committee and was also chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation from 1997 to 2002, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD from 2002 to 2005 and its successor, in which I shared the bulk of my time with David, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security between 2005 and 2007.

It is of note that David served as chair on this committee, particularly in that tumultuous period of time and with the introduction of legislation that was introduced to combat the emergence of the terrorist threat. It was at a time when, as a consequence of 9-11 and events afterwards, the intelligence and security services were expanded massively to cope with the threats of and the war on terrorism. David, in his work on that committee, played a key role in terms of the legislation.

What I particularly found about David was that he was always impartial. He acted in a very fair and impartial manner. We served with each other on various committees and various manifestations of committees and I certainly saw the equanimity that David had, and his unflappability, particularly in dealing with some pretty difficult subject matter and sets of circumstances and with some pretty complex pieces of legislation.

The committee itself we cannot really talk terribly much about, but I certainly saw in David's discharging his service as chair of the committee someone who was eminently suited to the task—and it was a substantial task, particularly with some of the reports that he oversaw as chair. Immediately after 09-11 David chaired two important reports, the first being an advisory report on the Intelligence Services Bill 2001 and the Intelligence Services (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2001 and certain parts of the Cybercrime Bill 2001 in 2001, and the second being an advisory report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill in 2001. As I said, in reading through a number of the reports that David oversaw in his capacity as chair of that committee in its different manifestations, I was particularly struck with the work that he did on the Intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction report in 2003—an absolutely seminal report which dealt with the realignment of our intelligence agencies and a report that certainly, in terms of its recommendations, resulted in the betterment of our national interest and national security.

As chairman of the parliamentary committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, David also led an important review into the operations effectiveness and implications of ASIO's questioning and detention powers in 2005. This review supported authorities to have expanded powers so they could detain people on reasonable grounds for questioning, in order to obtain intelligence that is important in relation to a terrorist offence. Another important report that he led as chair of the committee was the Review of security and counter terrorism legislation in 2006. This report proposed a series of modest refinements to improve specificity, clarity and fairness in a way which we believe is consistent with Australia's antiterrorism objectives. In particular, a recommendation arose out of that report as to an independent reviewer of terrorist legislation; that is now the National Security Legislation Monitor. The first report that recommended that was the report that David chaired.

I made some inquiries with the staff who had worked with David when he was chair, particularly in my period of time. They were all very deeply saddened to hear of his passing. What they—this was Margaret Swieringa, Jane Hearn, Donna Quintus-Bosz and Cathryn Ollif—wanted to say, particularly to David's family, was how much they had enjoyed working with him and how deeply sad they were to hear of his passing. As I said, this particular committee is not an easy committee to be a member of. It requires a very special person—a person of character, a person of substance.

In closing, can I say, in my remarks to this condolence motion, that, on behalf of the Labor members of the current intelligence and previous intelligence and security committees, I wish to pay my respects to David and his family. They should be very, very proud of what he achieved in this role, as we are, because what he has done has resulted in better terrorist legislation working in the national interest.