Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6527


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (10:48 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The reality of the modern security environment and the emergence of new threats crystallised by globalisation and advances in technology was set out in the Prime Minister’s National Security Statement.

The National Security Statement and the government’s counterterrorism white paper acknowledge that responding to these threats requires an intelligence-led, coordinated effort across government and between our national security agencies.

To achieve this, agencies must be well connected and free from technical and other barriers to sharing relevant information and expertise.

Vital information is less likely to fall through the gaps if agencies can draw on the expertise of others within the law enforcement and national security communities for assistance.

This bill amends three acts to facilitate greater cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies and removes legislative barriers to information sharing within Australia’s national security community.

Interception Assistance

Currently, under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, law enforcement agencies can seek the assistance of other law enforcement agencies in exercising an interception warrant.

This ability has enabled smaller agencies with limited interception capacity to rely on larger agencies to intercept on their behalf. However, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, or ASIO, does not fall within the group of agencies from whom assistance can be sought.

This distinction does not reflect the reality of the modern security environment and the cooperative basis within which law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies now operate.

The bill will amend the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act to enable ASIO to intercept on behalf of other agencies and to ensure that ASIO has greater flexibility to support whole-of-government efforts to protect our communities.

In assisting law enforcement agencies, ASIO will continue to be subject to the existing legislative requirements set out in the interception act and the ASIO Act.

As the assistance ASIO will be able to provide falls within its existing expertise, it will not detract from ASIO’s primary function of gathering and analysing intelligence.

Other Assistance

In addition to assisting law enforcement agencies in relation to interception, the bill also enables ASIO to cooperate with and assist law enforcement and intelligence agencies in other areas.

The bill will amend the ASIO Act to enable ASIO to cooperate with and to assist the following agencies in performing their functions:

  • the Defence Signals Directorate,
  • the Australian Secret Intelligence Service,
  • the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation, and
  • law enforcement agencies (such as police forces) at a federal, state and territory level.

Similarly, the bill will amend the Intelligence Services Act to enable ASIS, DSD and DIGO to cooperate with and to assist each other and ASIO.

These measures will enhance the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to work together in an even more collaborative way.

It will facilitate greater interoperability in multi-agency teams, such as the recently announced Counter-Terrorism Control Centre, and enable agencies to harness resources in support of key national security priorities. Assistance provided may also include assistance with logistics and analytical advice.

The failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253, which occurred on 25 December 2009, Christmas Day just past, reminds us of the need to remain vigilant to the ongoing threat of terrorism.

This bill will help to ensure that our national security agencies are able to work together in responding to our increasingly fluid and evolving national security environment.

The amendments retain the distinction between law enforcement and intelligence functions and that the accountability frameworks within which the agencies are required to operate are maintained.

Other amendments

The bill also makes several amendments to the interception act that will improve the operation, responsiveness and integrity of the interception regime.

This bill will amend the interception act to require carriers and service providers to inform the communications access coordinator of proposed changes that could significantly affect their ability to comply with their statutory obligation to assist interception agencies. This includes changes relating to business management practices, such as maintenance and support, and the storage and administration of customer information.

Once a notification has been received, the communications access coordinator will be able to consult with certain government agencies about the proposed changes.

Importantly, early notification will ensure that carriers and service providers can meet their obligations to assist and avoid the need for costly alterations once a change has been implemented.

Amendments are also contained in the bill that will support police forces to find missing persons and to solve crimes where the victim cannot be found or cannot consent to their communications being accessed.

Currently, data about telecommunications, such as call records, cannot be provided to police to help locate missing persons because finding a missing person is not a criminal matter. However, in many circumstances, access to such data would help the speedy resolution of missing persons’ cases.

This bill will amend the interception act to allow carriers and carrier service providers to provide telecommunications data and stored communications to police for the purpose of locating missing persons.

The bill provides constraints on the disclosure of this information to acknowledge that there are circumstances in which missing persons may not want their location revealed.

The bill will improve the operation of the interception act by allowing a representative of the carrier or service provider who has been authorised by the managing director to receive notice of the issue of an interception warrant.

Finally, the bill makes several minor and technical changes to address formatting and typographical errors and to better reflect plain English drafting conventions.

Conclusion

Ensuring that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the ability to respond to threats to our national security is a key priority for this government.

The measures contained in this bill build on the steps previously taken in this area to facilitate better communication and cooperation between our law enforcement and national security agencies.

By shaping and supporting a national security community we will strengthen the capacity of all agencies to protect our communities from criminal and other activities that threaten our national security and personal wellbeing.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Southcott) adjourned.