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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 6816

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (19:53): by leave—I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Amendment Bill 2011. I rise simply to record a series of what I regard as concerns merely with what could be seen as some of the acts that this bill is seeking to change. The member for Canberra referred to modernising, and I do not think anybody has a problem with modernising, but my concerns are with some of the powers within this bill that we are discussing today. It is important to note at this juncture that we have referred the matter to a Senate committee, and I think that is probably a wise decision in relation to the power to delegate. The office of the IGIS was created in 1983 and there are now six intelligence agencies in Australia. The IGIS was set up to provide an oversight and review, and I think the member for Canberra makes an important point about having sufficient oversight and review functions of such important agencies in a liberal democracy. I want to record my support of those six agencies and the work that they do on behalf of our nation. Intelligence and the gathering of it is, by necessity, a secret business; nonetheless, I regard it as fundamental for our nation's security and its future. The act currently allows IGIS to undertake preliminary inquiries, but only when a complaint is made to its office. Where an allegation is made but there has been no complaint to the office, the only formal option for examination of the matter is to commence a full inquiry. There is also an apparent anomaly in this act in that IGIS can only conduct an inquiry on its own into the activities of agencies such as the ONA, ASIO and DIO but has no capacity in regard to DIGO, the Defence Signals Directorate or ASIS. That is an anomaly that does need to be corrected. I think that is a valid and important modernisation of this act. The act also permits IGIS to provide the Prime Minister a copy of any report covering ONA but not the other five agencies. There are plenty of discrepancies within this current act that certainly do need modernising and these amendments from the government are to be welcomed and bring us into line with what you would regard as a common-sense approach for this particularly important agency.

At present the act does not provide for any power of delegation. I think this is where as an opposition we have a concern. If you are proposing a power of delegation, that should be the subject of sufficient scrutiny and review to ensure that we are not giving extra power or additional ability that we may not ordinarily grant as a parliament to such agencies. There is very sensitive information that IGIS is able to gather and that needs to be closely held. The ability to delegate is probably something that should have a very rigorous examination by Senate committee.

The act also confers strong coercive powers on IGIS, which should not be allowed to proliferate. Those coercive powers in relation to calling witnesses and bringing people to provide evidence or information are very serious. It is the role of government to hold an exclusive monopoly on the right to use force and we allow agencies, particularly police and intelligence services, to use it on our behalf. They have to be subject to the appropriate protection and scrutiny for all citizens. This is a valid consideration that the opposition has in terms of ensuring that this is given broad scrutiny. That is why we have foreshadowed that we do not oppose this bill as it is currently drafted, but there could be potential amendments following an examination by the Senate committee. I think it is important that that consideration is given, particularly in regard to these powers of delegation.

I do not really have a lot of other objections or things I would like to comment on in relation to this bill. I note the submissions and concerns that will be provided to the Senate committee will deal with many of these provisions. There are some concerns from the Law Council of Australia. While I may not always agree with the Law Council of Australia, I think it is proper that they have the opportunity, as do other concerned stakeholders, to put their concerns to a properly comprised Senate committee where we can consider the scope for any further amendments to this act and to the provisions of the amendment bill before us today. While not opposing anything in particular, in fact there are some worthwhile provisions in this bill, it is important that it have rigorous scrutiny and that people be given the opportunity to make submissions on potential further amendments to this legislation.