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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7232


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (19:23): I omitted to mention one other important amendment. That is government amendment on sheet HK105. That is the amendment which will include an express exclusion of conduct constituting torture from the regime of special intelligence operations conducted by ASIO. The government maintains its view that conduct constituting torture cannot be authorised as part of a special intelligence operation or subject to the limited immunity from legal liability. There can be no sensible suggestion that such gross violations of Australia's international human rights obligations are in any way necessary for, or relevant to, ASIO's functions. ASIO cannot, does not and has never engaged in torture.

However, I acknowledge that some honourable senators, and I note in particular the concerns raised by Senator Leyonhjelm, had sought an express exclusion of torture from conduct capable of being authorised under section 35C and from the immunity in section 35K. In order to make the existing legal position explicit on the face of the legislation, these amendments do this. I note that the amendments are declaratory of the existing legal position. They do not change the law. I hope, Senator Leyonhjelm, they give you the reassurance that you had sought.