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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 640

Question No. 185


Mr Burr asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 19 May 1983:

What security investigations are made to determine whether officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation have an active affiliation with political groups either inside or outside Australia.


Mr Lionel Bowen —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

Subject to the requirements of security, members of ASIO are entitled to the same rights of free association enjoyed by all Australian citizens.

The ASIO Act 1979, in Section 20, does impose certain obligations however. The Director-General is charged, for example, to ensure that ASIO is kept free from influences and considerations which are not relevant to its functions. He is also obliged in effect to ensure that nothing is done which would lend colour to any suggestion that ASIO discharged its functions subject to either political or sectional bias.

No investigations as such are carried out into the political affiliations of ASIO officers. However, the Organisation's handbook on the professional conduct of officers lays down very clear guidelines to which officers are required to adhere. Inter alia, that handbook provides that:

'While the Director-General cannot forbid an officer becoming a member of a recognized political party, it is most important that ASIO should maintain a genuine independence and not be identified in any way with such parties. For example, it would be wrong for an ASIO officer to campaign during any political election by addressing meetings, distributing pamphlets or manning polling booths. In dealings with politicians, an ASIO officer should not do or say anything which could give rise to suspicions of political bias on the officer's part. Letters should not be written to the press on topics having a party political flavour'.

I am assured by the Director-General that appropriate steps are taken to ensure that these rules are complied with.