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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 70


Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (5:06 PM) —On behalf of the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, Senator Ferguson, I present the report of the committee entitled Review of administration and expenditure for ASIO, ASIS and DSD. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.


Senator TROETH —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate a tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

I am pleased to present the third review of the administration and expenditure of ASIO, ASIS and DSD by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD.

Under section 29 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, the Joint Committee has an obligation to review the administration and expenditure of ASIO, ASIS and DSD including the agencies annual financial statements.

All members are aware of the on-going war on terrorism and the threat it poses to Australians and Australian interests both here and abroad. In response there has been a very a substantial increase in the budgets, operations, administration and organisational structures of Australia’s intelligence agencies. ASIO, ASIS and DSD face major new challenges which must be managed through the appropriate administration of resources.

Given the nature of the review and the classification of much of the material submitted to the Committee by intelligence agencies, the review was conducted in private. The sources of evidence for the review were various. The three intelligence agencies made submissions and gave evidence to the Committee. In addition, the Committee relied on the Australian National Audit Office, ASIO’s unclassified Annual Report to Parliament and the Portfolio Budget Statements from the agencies.

However, there are still some deficiencies in this process.

The Committee is aware that it is not in a position to conduct a detailed examination of the financial resources of ASIO, ASIS and DSD and relies heavily on the reporting of the Auditor-General in relation to matters of expenditure. The Committee has also recommended that the annual audits of the agencies be provided to the Committee along with any additional information that might be relevant to the Committee’s review of administration and expenditure.

The Committee remains concerned about the financial accountability of DSD. This matter was raised in the first review of administration and expenditure. DSD is part of the Intelligence Output Group of the Department of Defence and, therefore, there is no requirement for DSD to prepare a separate financial report; rather it is incorporated as part of the overall financial reporting of the Department of Defence. The Committee has recommended that the Government give further consideration to an alternative mechanism to allow for a separate financial statement by DSD.

In addition, the Committee does not have access to other key documentation, notably the classified annual reports of ASIO, ASIS and DSD. Only ASIO produces a full, unclassified Annual Report to Parliament. Minor references to ASIS and DSD are made in the Annual Reports of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Committee therefore has reservations about its ability to review adequately the administration and expenditure of the agencies. It has recommended that the Government consider providing the Committee with the classified Annual Reports for all three agencies. These, as with the other classified documents presented to the Committee, would be treated with proper regard to their classification and to the limits of the Committee’s areas of responsibility as defined by the Intelligence Services Act.

The Committee supports the strengthening of ANAO oversight of ASIO, ASIS and DSD through the development of a rolling program of performance audits and through amendments to Section 10 of the Auditor-General’s Act to reflect the importance of the ANAO in assisting the Committee to discharge its responsibilities to review the expenditure and administration of the agencies.

In the context of ASIO’s investigation of possible terrorist activity in Australia, the Committee recommends as appropriate, greater liaison between the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and the Commonwealth and State Ombudsman including the development of a memorandum of understanding or protocol governing possible joint reviews of combined ASIO/police operations.

Much of the evidence before the Committee concerning Australia’s intelligence and security agencies is of a highly classified nature. This is right and proper in relation to information that may involve matters of national security. However, it is also the case that unnecessary secrecy hinders proper scrutiny. The Committee recommends that a review should be undertaken into the extent of public reporting across intelligence agencies overseen by the Committee. In a related matter, the Committee has also recommended that ASIS produce an unclassified version of its code of conduct and that this should be tabled in Parliament by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In conclusion, I would like to thank ASIO, ASIS and DSD as well as the ANAO for their cooperation in and contributions to this review.

I would also like to thank members of the Committee who have undertaken their duties in a bipartisan fashion and who recognise the need to put the national interest and effective Parliamentary scrutiny of highly sensitive matters before any partisan political interests. The work of the Committee continually presents the members with the challenge of reconciling the demands of national security with Parliamentary and public scrutiny.

It is the belief of the Committee that the report before you is an appropriate balance between the two.

I recommend the report to the Senate.