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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3925

Mr HAYES (FowlerGovernment Whip) (10:26): I too rise to support this bill. Despite the politics that have been played out—and I do understand that the opposition have got to get the obligatory media releases out—I, like the member for Stirling, know of the efficiencies that have been achieved in the security space. I am sure the member for Stirling would join with me in acknowledging the level of cooperation and efficiency between our respective security organisations and law enforcement agencies and also that the deployment of various provisions that apply under the federal regulation and legislation has caused great efficiency amongst our intelligence gatherers and also in how that intelligence has been deployed not only in respect of home affairs and security but also in respect of law enforcement. Despite all the rhetoric that goes on, on all sides of this House we should take pride in the men and women who represent these agencies and do such a sterling job. The fruit of their labour is now coming through in terms of the number of arrests and the amount of disruption that is occurring in respect of possible threats to this country. ASIO is a very professional organisation and the way it interacts with other intelligence and law enforcement services is second to none. All sides of the parliament are right to be very proud of these institutions.

As I said, I support this bill. The changes in this bill would probably be considered minor, and some of them are technical. The amendments are about improving the operation and key provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Criminal Code Act 1995. These are practical changes in the operation of these bills ensuring consistency and efficiency in the way those powers are employed. These amendments are not dramatic by any means but they do play an important role in the government's ongoing assessment of legislation that underpins our national security and will allow those who work in that field the necessary improvements within their daily operations. That is not just to say that that is contained simply to ASIO and ASIO officers. This is now an interrelationship of intelligence-gathering services that apply across a broad spectrum. It also, under federal regulation, limits what matters can be exchanged with other agencies. What we are seeing now is the harnessing of our intelligence-gathering resources to be deployed in such a way that it has been very good for this country and its efficiency and effectiveness.

The government has a strong commitment to national security, and we understand that it is an issue that is important to a large number of Australians. You do not have to go much further than reading the morning newspapers and you understand how significant security is to this country. It is not just a reflection of areas of world instability, it is also an important factor—things that are a threat to national security are not just the issues around terrorism, there are also issues and strategies engaged with regard to organised crime and criminal activity that can be used to threaten national security as well. These are things that our agencies have in the forefront of their thinking as they approach these matters.

Therefore, ensuring national security is an ongoing task. It is not the sort of task you should go and look at every 10 years or so and come back with a wad of amendments. This is something we need to stay on top of and make adjustments to from time to time in a way which is necessary to ensure that responsiveness and consistency to ensure efficiency measures are protected within these institutions. Therefore, while this amendment does not seem significant in itself, it nevertheless plays an important role in Australia's national security framework.

The amendments outlined to the bill can be understood as amendments to the ASIO Act, and amendments to the Intelligence Services Act. I will start with the ASIO Act. In the first instance, the bill amends the definition of 'foreign intelligence' in the ASIO Act so that it is consistent with both the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. As was the case with last year's amendment to the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Act 2010, this is all about ensuring consistency in the collection of foreign intelligence, and reflects the modern national security context. This context encompasses threats from both state and non-state actors, so it is important to ensure consistency across this intelligence base.

It also amends the ASIO Act to clarify computer access. In doing so, it will ensure that that access is available for the life of the warrant and therefore it does not change the operation of the provision of the access regime. Lastly, it aligns ASIO with other intelligence agencies with regard to information relating to employment within the intelligence community, excluding it from part IV of the act.

This amendment also deals with amendments to the Intelligence Services Act. These relate to the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation, providing specific functions for the DIGO to cooperate with and provide assistance to the Australian Defence Force. This is something that always was assumed to occur, but this will give it greater definition and clarification with regard to that. On national security issues it is essential that all our agencies work together and that they have the legislative framework to underpin that. That is what I say in response to some of the comments by the member for Stirling. We are seeing those efficiencies now coming in. As opposed to having discrete intelligence silos, we are seeing the harnessing of intelligence and the deployment of that intelligence in such a way that is effective in protecting not only the borders, but also protecting the Australian public with regard to proposed terrorism events or threats, but also being deployed in such a way to protect the Australian community against serious and organised crime.

The bill contains amendments to provide a new ground for granting ministerial authorisations for producing intelligence about Australian persons, with regard to contravention of UN sanctions. Another important element of this amendment is the clarification of the immunity provisions in the Intelligence Services Act and the Criminal Code computer offences to ensure that those provisions are not vulnerable to being inadvertently overridden by later provisions occurring in other legislation, as it does from time to time. We saw that a number of years ago, where that did occur. As I understand it, that was in relation to issues of court based offences, but this is to ensure that the provisions in respect of those computer offences remain paramount and cannot be overridden at a later date.

The last element relates to the government's commitment to clearer laws in this area. It moves existing exemptions from the Legislative Instruments Regulations to make them clear in respect of the application to the Intelligence Services Act.

As the member for Stirling said, I do tend to speak a fair bit in relation to police and law enforcement matters, but I do have the utmost respect for the officers of ASIO. I imagine I should not use the person's name, and I will not, but I had the opportunity to attend the very fine wedding not all that long ago of a young fellow that I have seen grow up since he was at high school.

Ms Hall: Who is it?

Mr HAYES: I am sure there are security provisions that would prevent me from naming him. He is a very fine young man, a very bright young man. And to see this young fellow grow up and have a job in ASIO is a very fine thing. I have seen this kid show his dedication through his schoolwork. I see it in the way he applies himself to his studies at university. And it does go to show that ASIO is an organisation that is targeting the best and brightest in our community to go out there and to be intelligence gatherers. Just knowing this young fellow personally, as well as his lovely bride, I can put a personal reflection on the standard of people that we have acting on our behalf and protecting our community. The Gillard government is strongly committed to maintaining Australia's national security to give the community peace of mind and to ensure that we protect our borders and our community at large with respect to all threats, including serious and organised crime.

Though these amendments may be small in the overall scheme of things they are necessary and they play a strong role in the day-to-day operations of our national security legislation. I commend this legislation to the House.