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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 6500

Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (20:05): I take this opportunity to thank the chair for his remarks. I endorse his comments about the committee secretariat, particularly Mr Robert Little and our former secretary Dr Margot Kerley. Can I just observe that this report relates to activities under the chairmanship of our former colleague and member for Brisbane, Arch Bevis. I acknowledge the very considerable personal interest he took in these matters and the leadership he undertook in relation to the committee's activities. I commend the comments and observations made by the present chair.

I will spend a moment or two focusing on a couple of issues that I think are particularly germane—and not necessarily those emphasised by my colleague. In relation to the Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 8 (2008 - 2009) - Australian Intelligence Agencies it was particularly interesting because the review is the first full review of the administration and expenditure of six intelligence agencies which the committee was able to look at as part of the Australian intelligence community, as we understand it. During this review, the committee found that a significant incon¬≠sistency exists in relation to the way in which the oversight of the Australian intelligence community occurs. An agency whose role is in fact growing is now the subject of consideration by committees that have a different function and are not necessarily expert or do not necessarily have access to the broader information that might be relevant to examining an intelligence function.

The committee noted in its report that it had previously had evidence from a number of agencies that noted the work of the Australian Federal Police that had been developing since the terrorist attacks in the United States and the terrorist attacks in Bali. The committee noted that the Australian Federal Police have increasingly been involved in counterterrorist activities and that sections have been created to address significant counterterrorism and national security functions. I mention this because the committee made a recommendation that the Intelligence Services Act should be amended to include the Australian Federal Police counterterrorism elements in the list of organisations that the committee reviews.

The government has seen fit not to pick up that recommendation. I find that very disappointing. As I see it, there have already been substantial concerns about the work of intelligence agencies and the Australian Federal Police, which were not seen to be adequately integrated at earlier points in time. It warranted a review by Sir Laurence Street, initiated by the former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Mick Keelty, because it was seen to be a major oversight. I am concerned that the government is perpetuating that in the way in which it has considered this role. I understand that it was because perhaps the AFP did not want to be reporting to two committees. I suggest, with respect, that that was a very poor argument given that it was left with a committee that has no broader experience in the review of the intelligence community as a whole.

The other matter I want to draw attention to is the impact of efficiency dividends, which the committee noted in its earlier report for that same year. Most of the intelligence organisations are fairly small. The need for intelligence agencies has not in any way diminished. Their work is in fact growing, particularly in relation to counterespionage and the area of cyberterrorism. These are matters of public note, but in my judgment the impact of efficiency dividends is likely to diminish the ongoing effectiveness of the capacity of these organisations, which we have been trying to enhance. So I draw attention to our earlier comments on that matter in this report and encourage the government to be very focused on the need to ensure that the intelligence community is adequately resourced at a time when it is facing a growing challenge. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): Does the member for Holt wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?