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Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Page: 2698


Mr MARLES (CorioParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) (17:06): I begin by acknowledging the contribution of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in support of the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill 2013. I thank her also for her very supportive statements of the good work of Australia's officers in ASIS.

This bill amends the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The amendments to the Intelligence Services Act will create a mechanism for Australian Secret Intelligence Service employees to move to an Australian Public Service agency in the same way that Australian public servants can voluntarily transfer from one Australian Public Service agency to another under section 26 of the Public Service Act 1999. The proposed provisions provide a mechanism for the Director-General of ASIS and the Public Service Commissioner to agree to equivalent classification levels. The amendments to the Intelligence Services Act will better facilitate the protection of an ASIS employee's identity as an ASIS officer, and broaden the mobility opportunities for ASIS employees in the Australian Public Service.

ASIS employees are not Australian public servants; instead they are Commonwealth officers employed under the Intelligence Services Act. However, in order to protect their identities as ASIS officers under section 41 of the Intelligence Services Act, ASIS employees are typically identified as public servants. In the ordinary course, public servants were transferred to other Public Service agencies under the Public Service Act, and there is no obvious reason a public servant would not transfer under this section. The bill addresses this by allowing ASIS officers who are identified as public servants to act like public servants if they are transferred.

This bill also contains amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act. These amendments will enable the Director-General of ASIS, with the approval of the minister responsible for the Work Health and Safety Act, to make a declaration that specifies provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act do not apply, or apply subject to modifications, in relation to persons carrying out work for the director-general. The amendment does not represent a change in the policy underpinning the Work Health and Safety Act. Subsection 12C(1) of that act already specifically recognises:

Nothing in this Act requires or permits a person to take any action, or to refrain from taking any action, that would be, or could reasonably be expected to be, prejudicial to Australia’s national security.

However, currently, there is no mechanism to modify the operation of the specific provisions of the act to people who perform work for the Director-General of ASIS. This is in contrast to the position of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as the Australian Defence Force. Both of these agencies have mechanisms for modification of the Work Health and Safety Act under sections 12C and 12D of the act, respectively. Any modification of the act by the Director-General of ASIS will occur only with the agreement of the minister responsible for the Work Health and Safety Act. In administering ASIS and in the exercise of the power to make a declaration, the director-general must take into account the need to promote the objects of the Work Health and Safety Act to the greatest extent, consistent with the maintenance of Australia's national security. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.