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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2861


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (9:17 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 contains amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Criminal Code Act 1995.

The proposed amendments in this bill have been identified through practical experience as measures that will improve the operation of key provisions in the legislation.

I will briefly outline the key measures in the bill.

Amendments to the ASIO Act

The bill amends the definition of ‘foreign intelligence’ in the ASIO Act to ensure consistency with the Intelligence Services Act and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. This follows on from a similar amendment to the Interception Act, which was made last year by the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Act 2010. The amendments ensure a consistent approach to the collection of foreign intelligence, and reflect that the modern national security context encompasses threats from both state and non-state actors.

The bill also amends the ASIO Act to clarify that computer access warrants authorise ongoing access to the computer during the life of the warrant. This amendment is not intended to change the operation of the provision.

Amendments are also included to exclude the communication of information relating to employment within the intelligence community from the operation of the security assessment provisions in part IV of the ASIO Act. This will put ASIO on the same footing as other intelligence agencies when it comes to communicating such information.

Amendments to the Intelligence Services Act

The bill also contains an amendment to the functions of the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation. It will provide a specific function for DIGO, as it is called, to cooperate with and provide assistance to the Australian Defence Force. This is consistent with a similar function of the Defence Signals Directorate.

The bill contains amendments to provide a new ground for granting ministerial authorisations for producing intelligence about Australian persons. The new ground covers intelligence regarding activities related to the contravention of United Nations sanctions. It will complement the existing ground that covers activities relating to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the movement of goods listed on the Defence and Strategic Goods List.

Clarification of the immunity provisions in the Intelligence Services Act and the Criminal Code computer offence provisions are included. These amendments make it clear that the immunity provisions can only be overridden by express legislative intent. This will ensure that those provisions are not vulnerable to being inadvertently overridden by later in time legislation.

Finally, the bill contains amendments relating to the status of certain instruments under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003. Consistent with the government’s commitment to clearer laws, the bill moves existing exemptions from the Legislative Instruments Regulations to make these exemptions express on the face of the Intelligence Services Act.

Oversight and accountability

I would like to take this opportunity to remind members that Australia’s intelligence and security agencies continue to be subject to a range of important oversight and accountability measures.

These include the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

The government is committed to ensuring that national security oversight bodies are well-equipped to undertake their vital roles.

Members would recall that amendments to increase the size of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security were recently passed as part of the Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. The committee plays a vital role in providing parliamentary oversight of the administration and expenditure of the agencies.

The mandate of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was recently expanded in the National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2010, so that the Inspector-General can extend inquiries outside the intelligence community in appropriate cases.

Conclusion

Ensuring 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.

This bill, while relatively small, is an important step in the government’s ongoing review of National Security legislation, and will improve the practical operation of a number of provisions. I commend this bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.