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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9931


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (12:18): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the advisory report on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr TEHAN: by leave—the committee's inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 has come at a time of heightened concern about the threat of terrorism to Australia and its interests overseas.

The bill implements many of the bipartisan recommendations made by the committee of the previous parliament in its review of possible reforms to Australia's national security legislation.

The recommendations implemented in the bill include:

changes to ASIO's employment framework,

changes to ASIO's warrant based powers, including around computer access warrants and the use of force during the execution of warrants,

the introduction of a Special Intelligence Operations scheme,

changes to ASIO's ability to incorporate and share information with other organisations, and

changes affecting the ability of ASIS to collect intelligence on Australians overseas.

The bill also includes a small number of additional measures not previously looked at by the committee. These include an expansion of the secrecy offences applying to employees or other persons in an arrangement with an intelligence agency.

The committee supports the intent of the bill to increase the effectiveness of Australia's intelligence organisations at a time when the threat to our country from terrorism remains high.

While the time frame for the inquiry was short, the committee still received a considerable number of submissions and conducted both public and private hearings. Informed by the evidence, the report has focused on the issues that were of most concern to the committee.

Recent media commentary has included claims that the special intelligence operations framework provided for in the bill could be used to authorise torture by ASIO officers. I should put on the record that the committee received evidence from a range of legal, human rights and civil liberties groups—including the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Lawyers Alliance and the civil liberties councils across Australia—and these groups did not suggest that the bill would enable torture and they did not highlight to the committee any need for torture to be explicitly prohibited in the legislation.

The committee has made 16 recommendations to improve safeguards and strengthen public confidence that the powers extended in the bill cannot be used beyond their legitimate policy intent.

The recommendations include:

clarifying that computer access warrants may only authorise access to a computer network to the extent necessary to collect intelligence on a specified security matter,

reporting requirements relating to the use of force by ASIO officers during the execution of a warrant,

requiring the Attorney-General to approve the commencement, variation or extension of all special intelligence operations,

new notification requirements to support oversight of special intelligence operations by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security,

exemptions from the secrecy offences relating to special intelligence operations for disclosures in the course of legal advice or in complaints to the Inspector-General, and

clarifying that the secrecy offences relating to staff and other entrusted persons of intelligence agencies do not apply to information disclosed to the Inspector-General.

Importantly, the Inspector-General has told the committee she has the authority she needs to oversight the measures in the bill. However, her office needs sufficient resources and expertise to keep abreast with providing the necessary oversight of the intelligence agencies, and the committee has made a recommendation in support of this. The committee has further recommended that the position of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor be filled as soon as practicable. Following consideration of its other recommendations, the committee has recommended that the bill be passed by the parliament.

I wish to thank members of the committee for their constructive and cooperative approach to the inquiry. I am pleased that we were able to reach bipartisan agreement on the issues of contention, and I trust that the committee's report will assist the parliament in its further debate on the bill. On behalf of the committee I sincerely thank those organisations and individuals who made written submissions and appeared at hearings. I particularly thank the Attorney-General's Department and ASIO for their high level of engagement during the inquiry. I would also like to take the opportunity to place on the record my own and the committee's best wishes to Mr David Irvine in his retirement. He has done an outstanding job as Director-General. I would also like to place on record my thanks to the committee secretariat for their help during the reporting of this record. I commend the report to the House.