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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2040


Senator ZAKHAROV —On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, I present the committee's report entitled Security assessment: a review of security assessment procedures, together with the transcript of evidence. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

  Leave granted.


Senator ZAKHAROV —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to have my tabling statement incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The statement read as follows

The report I have just presented—ASIO and Security Assessment: a Review of Security Assessment Procedures—is the result of a reference to the Committee from the previous Attorney-General in the last Parliament, which was referred again by the present Attorney-General in May 1993. In total, five public hearings were held, two in 1992 and three in 1993. Submissions were received from twenty-nine organisations and individuals, and evidence was taken at both public and in-camera hearings from agencies such as ASIO itself, the Attorney-General's Department, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Security Appeals Tribunal, the Administrative Review Council, the Privacy Commissioner and the Merit Protection and Review Agency.

The report traces briefly the historical background to ASIO's present role in security assessment; from its establishment in 1949, through the Royal Commissions headed by Mr Justice Hope in the 1970s and the 1980s to the present. In its examination of the issues, the committee came to several early and fundamental conclusions:

firstly, that it remains in the national interest to restrict access to certain places and information; and

secondly, that the appropriate balance has been achieved between the security assessment role of ASIO and the access suitability decision-making role of agencies.

In reaching these conclusions, however, the committee identified a number of areas of concern:

the intrusive nature of security checking, and the extent to which this process itself may deter suitable applicants for positions;

the extent of security checking, resulting from the number of government positions requiring the occupants to have a national security clearance;

the qualifications, training and experience of agency officers involved in security clearance decisions;

aspects of the procedures adopted by the Security Appeals Tribunal; and

the lack of a right of review of agency decisions in relation to access.

The committee makes nine recommendations in relation to these concerns. Among these are recommendations designed to:

allow for greater public accountability by agency heads for decisions related to security access;

review the privacy-intrusive nature of the present process; and

establish a new security division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and permit appeals to the Tribunal in relation to access decisions by agency heads.

The report makes an important contribution to what should be a continuing examination and discussion of the sensitive issues involved in personnel security. This continuing examination must always seek to balance individual human rights with the needs of national security. I thank committee members for their contribution, and also the staff, particularly Don Nairn, Pat Sherman and Laura Gillies and, in the later stages of the inquiry, Peter Gibson, Catherine Cornish, Margaret Gibson and Sophia Konti.

I commend the report to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.