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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3921

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (09:37): I rise to talk on the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. The coalition supports this bill in principle. The bill proposes to amend the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Criminal Code Act 1995 to ensure consistency and interoperability of provisions, clarify provisions relating to computer access warrants, provide new grounds for the collection of intelligence on an Australian person and clarify the existing immunity provisions for intelligence agencies and officers.

Tuesday's budget revealed that Labor is going to waste another $1.7 billion in taxpayers' money on their blow-out—not on their border protection program but on managing their failure of the border protection program. We have gone from spending $100 billion a year under the coalition on asylum seekers to over $1 billion per year. That is an astonishing blow-out of 1,000 per cent per annum. Clearly there is a price to be paid for all of this wasted money. The price is being paid for Labor's failure by Australia's front-line national security agencies: The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Federal Police and, importantly in relation to this bill, ASIO, ASIS, ONA and the other Defence intelligence agencies are all suffering because of Labor's enormous failure to protect our borders and the cost to the taxpayer. The cuts need to be found from somewhere to pay for this failure, and it is the front-line agencies that are bearing the brunt.

Ms Hall: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: there are two issues I would like to raise. First, the member is not being relevant to the legislation. This is not legislation about border protection. Second, I take offence at the member sitting beside him saying, 'Sit down' and calling me by my first name. That is very unparliamentary.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): It is certainly inappropriate for a member's personal name to be used. I would expect that there would be no repetition.

Mr Hawke: Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order: the speaker was being entirely relevant. If the member is offended by the content, she has appropriate ways to respond in the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable member will resume his seat. We are debating the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 and the preamble says:

A Bill for an Act to amend laws relating to intelligence, and for other purposes

That gives certain leeway; however, it is not a blank cheque to talk about anything one wants. I would counsel the member for Stirling to stick to the provisions of the bill. I call the honourable member for Stirling.

Ms Hall interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not need the assistance of the honourable member for Shortland.

Mr KEENAN: I hate to inform the member for Shortland but, when you are dealing with the intelligence services of Australia, her government—the Labor government—has tasked both ASIO and ASIS, the agencies that are the subject of this bill, with dealing with the border protection crisis that the Labor Party has created. In fact, if she were to go to the budget papers that were released on Tuesday, she might look at the Attorney-General's portfolio budget statement or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget statement dealing with these agencies and she will find line items in both of those portfolio statements dealing expressly with border security. In fact, that will be the title. I will make it very easy for the member for Shortland. Maybe she could just Google the words.

Ms Hall: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I appreciate the member speaking to this legislation will have looked at the budget papers, but could I just remind him that this is not about—

Mr Hawke interjecting

Ms Hall: Excuse me!

Mr Hawke: What standing order? What are you referring to?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Mitchell will remain silent.

Ms Hall: The legislation we are debating today is not the budget. We are debating a very specific piece of legislation and it sets out point by point—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Shortland will resume her seat. We are debating the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill. I would ask the member for Stirling to restrict his contribution to the provisions of that bill.

Mr KEENAN: Mr Deputy Speaker, I will do that. I was obeying your ruling when I was referring to the budget, of course, because the budgetary process has dealt explicitly with the agencies that are the subject of this bill. I say to the member for Shortland that if she wants to confirm that what I am saying is correct she can go and check the budget papers. Alternatively, she could just take my word for it. I can certainly tell the member for Shortland that border protection is an integral part of what these intelligence agencies are now required to respond to because of her government's failure on that issue.

If you look at what the budget has done to these agencies, you will see that their ability to do the other parts of the job they are required to do will have catastrophic circumstances. For example, the member for Shortland might like to note that in the budget Labor has cut $6.9 million to ASIO, one of the agencies that is subject to this bill—

Ms Hall: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I hope the member for Shortland is not going to test my patience. The honourable member for Shortland on a point of order.

Ms Hall: It is on relevance. He is talking about the budget again, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Stirling.

Mr Hawke: Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Standing order 183, Appointment of Main Committee, and standing order 187, Maintenance of order, allow for members of this place to dissolve the Main Committee on motion without notice, and I would say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and through you to the government, that if order is unable to be maintained because of the actions of government members I am happy to move a motion without notice to adjourn the Main Committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will resume his seat. Order is being maintained in this chamber. There have been points of order taken, which are within the standing orders. I have ruled on those points of order. I have called the honourable member for Stirling and he can continue his contribution if he wishes without interference from the honourable member for Mitchell.

Mr KEENAN: I hope that also applies to the honourable member for Shortland.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Or any other member operating outside the standing orders.

Mr KEENAN: As I was saying, my contribution was going to take only about four minutes, but it has been extended by the frivolous persistence of the member for Shortland. As I was saying before I was interrupted, the budget explicitly cut funding to one of the agencies that is the subject of this bill. It cut $6.9 million from ASIO's funding to enable it to carry out security checks for unauthorised maritime arrivals. When people arrive on our shores illegally, they have paid a people smuggler big money and they rarely have identity documents, so we ask our domestic security agency to check the veracity of their claims. The security checks are incredibly difficult to do because you are dealing with people who do not supply their identity to the Australian government and who come from faraway places with limited administrative abilities, and ASIO is required to assess whether these people will pose a threat to our national security. You can imagine that that is an incredibly important task and people are arriving here on our shores at such a great rate, and the resources of ASIO are being taken up extensively on dealing with these security assessments. The response of the government is to cut ASIO's funding for a program that deals with its ability to assess unauthorised maritime arrivals. I think most Australians would find that extraordinary.

On top of that, cuts to the national security area also include cuts to our ability to surveil our northern waters with aircraft. Astonishingly, the response of the government to the border protection crisis, its response to the $1.75 billion of wasted money, is to reduce the area that the aircraft which patrol our northern waters will be able to patrol. Can you believe that!

Ms Hall: That's irrelevant.

Mr KEENAN: I would have thought that aerial surveillance is generally considered relevant to national security, but clearly—

Ms Hall: That is not relevant to this legislation.

Mr KEENAN: I might need your protection, Mr Deputy Speaker, from the member for Shortland.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is a robust debate and I am sure that the honourable member for Stirling has broad shoulders. However, I would ask the member for Shortland not to test my patience any further.

Mr KEENAN: The government has made this stunning cut. I am talking specifically about the $6.9 million that has been cut from the ASIO budget to deal with asylum seeker security assessments. It has cut this funding at a time when ASIO is being pressured to pump through vast numbers of security checks for those who have come to Australia illegally by boat.

The response of the government to the riots on Christmas Island, where buildings were burnt and Commonwealth officers were assaulted, where literally millions of dollars of taxpayers' money was put to the torch, was astonishingly to write to all these people saying, 'Look, we'll cave in to your demands; we'll make sure that all these security assessments are done by the end of April. Regardless of whether ASIO has the capacity to push through these individual security assessments, we will put an arbitrary time frame on these assessments being done.' Of course, that sent a great message to everyone within the detention network that the way to get a response from the Labor government is to act up and it will respond accordingly. ASIO has also had funding cut for training overseas liaison officers to the tune of $8.1 million.

As I have said, ASIO is not the only national security agency that has been targeted by the Labor government with cuts to their budget bottom line. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service have suffered at the chopping block also, with 90 staff axed and funds cut from crucial areas such as aerial surveillance, as I said earlier. They have also had $32 million slashed from their passenger facilitation program at our eight international airports. The Australian Federal Police have also been badly affected by Labor's mismanagement of Australia's national security. Labor cut funds to the AFP and also cut 72 of their staff. I know that this will particularly interest the member for Fowler, who takes a keen interest in police matters, and I am sure he will express his disappointment in the caucus about these particular cuts. With cuts like these, you really do need to wonder whether Labor take our national security seriously.

As mentioned in the bill's explanatory memorandum, the amendments proposed in this bill will amend the ASIO Act to align the definition of 'foreign intelligence' with the definitions in the Intelligence Services Act and the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act 1979. It will amend the ASIO Act to clarify that a computer access warrant authorises access to data held in the target computer at any time while the warrant is in force and is not limited to data held at a particular point in time, such as when the warrant is first executed. This does not change the law but ensures consistency within the computer access warrant regime.

The bill will also amend the ASIO Act to exclude the communication of information concerning the engagement or proposed engagement of staff within the Australian intelligence community from the security assessment procedures in the ASIO Act and put ASIO on the same footing as other intelligence agencies in relation to sharing information relevant to implement within the community.

Further, the bill will amend the Intelligence Services Act to permit the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation specifically to provide service to the defence forces in support of military operations and to cooperate with the ADF on intelligence matters. This is for clarification to ensure consistency with the Defence Signals Directorate's similar function. The bill will further provide for ministerial authorisation for the purpose of producing intelligence on an Australian person where the minister is satisfied that an Australian person is involved in or likely to be involved in activities relating to the contravention of UN sanction enforcement law. It will amend the Intelligence Services Act to clarify that the immunity provision in section 14 is intended to have effect unless another law of a Commonwealth, state or territory specifically overrides it. Finally, it makes a corresponding amendment to computer offences in part 10.7 of the Criminal Code.

This bill is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is having a look at the provisions of this bill. The opposition welcome that. We think it is appropriate that the Senate have a look at these matters, although we are broadly supportive of what is in this bill because it enhances the ability of our intelligence committee to do their job effectively. As I said at the beginning of this debate—and I probably would not have laboured the point so much had I not been so heavily encouraged by the member for Shortland—our intelligence community is suffering grievously at the hands of this government. The tiny cuts that are needed to make up for the fact that $1.75 billion has been wasted on the border protection fiasco has come out of our front-line national security agencies. Every single front-line national security agency had a cut in this budget. Extraordinarily, this is occurring at a time when they are massively overstretched specifically as a result of Labor's border protection fiasco. All of these agencies are required to deal with the people-smuggling issues. All of them have been specifically tasked to deal with this by this government and, at a time when there is this call on their resources, they are all getting cuts in their budget and some of them are getting cuts in personnel. So, whilst the opposition support the passage of this bill through this House, we as ever reserve the right to foreshadow potential amendments pending the outcome of the Senate committee's review into this particular legislation. But, as I said, this government is making life for our intelligence community extraordinarily difficult, and that is something we will change when we get into government.