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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 118


Senator GREIG (5:45 PM) —Likewise, we Democrats will not be insisting upon the amendments proposed by Labor—amendments which I made clear in my second reading contribution to this debate earlier in the week that the Democrats had given thought to. We did not move them simply because Labor had come to the same conclusion and had circulated its amendments before we had. We consider that the bill as a whole, on balance, is good and necessary. I have made those points also in my contribution to the second reading debate. Our only criticism is what we see as the late timing of the bill. We would have liked to have seen this particular legislative reform introduced sooner and we have been calling for something similar for some months now.

However, we agree with Labor that the substance of the bill could be improved upon by better addressing the issue of the terminology `a thing', which is really quite extraordinary in terms of legislative framework. We believe that the bill could do with better regulation, structured in such a way that it could perhaps be a disallowable instrument such that the parliament would also have a role of oversight and review of the powers we grant to ASIO. As it stands the bill is structured in a way which offers ASIO, to some degree, a blank cheque. Senator Ludwig has referred to that as legislative overreach and we would agree with that. It concerns us that there will now, it would seem, be opportunities for ASIO, in terms of the operation of this bill, to extend its processes of liaison and scrutiny to things other than, in this case, ammonium nitrate. That may seem benign on the surface but I think that, unless we as a democratic institution take great care to proscribe the powers and opportunities that we give to our intelligence agencies, necessary though they are and accepting the important role that they play, we may be diminishing the civil liberties and rights of our citizens. We have some discomfort with the blank cheque that this provides to ASIO but nonetheless, on the basis of the broader aspect of this bill being good, we will not be insisting upon the amendment.

Question agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.