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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 7

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:36 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 will assist in strengthening the contribution of sound intelligence to government decision making and operations. Effective intelligence arrangements, underpinned by sound accountability mechanisms, are fundamental to a range of key national priorities including countering terrorism, reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction proliferation, supporting Defence Force operations, and protecting Australian sovereignty.

This bill will implement the legislative recommendations made by Mr Philip Flood AO in his report last year on the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies. It will also put in place a range of amendments to intelligence-related legislation which were identified as a result of the Government’s review of the operation of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (‘the ISA’) since that legislation came into force in October 2001. This review was recommended by the former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), and was coordinated by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The ISA established legislative bases for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the activities of the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).

The Government announced in July last year that it had accepted all of the recommendations of the Flood Inquiry, with the exception of the proposal to change the name of the Office of National Assessments (ONA). This bill will implement all of the legislative recommendations from that Inquiry:

1.   “The mandate of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD (PJCAAD) should be extended to all of Australia’s intelligence agencies—that is, it should cover also ONA, DIO and DIGO on the same basis as it at present covers ASIO, ASIS and DSD. The parliament may consider renaming the committee as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).”

2.   “The functions and ministerial accountabilities of DIGO should be formalised in legislation by amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 2001. Similarly, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 should be amended to include scrutiny of DIGO on a basis comparable with that which applies to DSD and ASIS.”

3.   “The mandate of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security should be extended to allow IGIS to initiate inquiries at his or her own discretion into matters relating to ONA and DIO without ministerial referral, consistent with IGIS jurisdiction in respect of ASIO, ASIS and DSD. The Inspector-General should also conduct a periodic review of ONA’s statutory independence.”

4.   “The Office of National Assessments Act 1977 (‘the ONA Act’) should be amended to remove the references to two assessments board—the National Assessments Board and the Economic Assessments Board—to reflect the reality that there is only one National Assessments Board which covers strategic, political and economic issues, but with provision for different composition according to subject matter. This Act should also be amended to strengthen ONA’s community coordination role in section 5(1)(d).”

The provision of a legislative basis for the activities of the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO) will be a major outcome of this bill. DIGO is an agency of the Department of Defence, established in November 2000. While DIGO is a relatively new organisation, Australia’s involvement in imagery intelligence and topography is not new. These activities have been an integral part of Australia’s defence for many years. DIGO was created within Defence to better realise increasing synergies in the exploitation of imagery and other data to produce intelligence and geospatial information. Like ASIS and DSD, DIGO has a foreign intelligence focus, however its role is not limited to that. The bill sets out the five functional categories of DIGO’s work.

Under its first function, DIGO obtains imagery and geospatial data to produce intelligence relating to people or organisations outside Australia.

Under its second function, DIGO obtains imagery and geospatial data to produce intelligence to support ADF exercises, training and operations wherever they may occur. This function includes providing data and material in support of ADF decision making for targeting.

Under its third function, DIGO obtains imagery and geospatial data to produce intelligence to support Commonwealth and State authorities in their national security role.

Under its fourth function, DIGO communicates the material produced as a result of the exercise of the functions described above, in accordance with the requirements of the Government.

Under its fifth function, DIGO provides non-intelligence products and assistance to Commonwealth and State government agencies, as well as to approved non-government bodies and foreign governments. Non-intelligence products include routine topographic data and products. Assistance in search and rescue and response to natural disasters is specifically included in this function to acknowledge the important non-intelligence work done by DIGO in this area.

The review of the ISA’s operation was prompted by the former IGIS’s advice that this Act’s application had shown some refinement was needed. In addition, increased public interest in the activities of intelligence agencies and the ability of some agencies to impede the privacy of Australians warranted an examination and fine-tuning of accountability mechanisms at a level of detail that was not possible during the time available to the Flood Inquiry. Mr Flood was aware of plans for this subsequent review.

In August 2004, the Honourable David Jull MP, on behalf of the PJCAAD which he chairs, proposed to the Government that it consider a number of changes to that committee. These proposals included an increase in the size of the committee and other adjustments to help the PJCAAD respond to its increasing workload. The Government agreed that these proposals would be considered in the context of the review of the ISA. The Government has agreed in response to the review that the committee’s membership will be increased from seven to nine. A position of Deputy Chair will also be established, and the committee be empowered to establish subcommittees when required. In keeping with current arrangements, the Committee will not have a mandate to review the content or conclusions of assessments or reports made by DIO or ONA, or review the sources of information on which such assessments or reports are based. The Committee will not have a mandate to review the coordination and evaluation activities undertaken by ONA.

Other significant amendments resulting from the ISA review include clarification of the roles and functions, and ministerial authorisation regimes for intelligence collection by ASIS and DSD, that are set out in that Act. Another significant change will be adjustments to the ministerial authorisation regime to allow, where there is a need for emergency collection and the responsible Minister for an agency is not readily contactable or available, a Minister responsible for a different intelligence agency to authorise intelligence collection activities. These other ministers will be the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General. A further change will give new authority to ASIS, DIGO and DSD to communicate incidentally obtained intelligence in defined circumstances.

The bill also proposes a common definition of ‘staff member’ for the intelligence collection agencies, that clarifies the status of consultants or contractors, or persons made available to work with an agency by another Commonwealth or State authority.

Other changes include a provision which expressly provides for IGIS to consult with the Commonwealth Ombudsman to avoid a duplication of effort. A similar provision currently exists in the IGIS Act in respect of the Auditor-General.

Another provision will establish a clear right for IGIS, as part of monitoring ASIO’s activities, to access any place being used to detain a person under a warrant issued for the purposes of questioning in accordance with Division 3 of Part III of the ASIO Act.

Other amendments concern an IGIS inquiry which directly concerns the head of an agency. These changes will allow IGIS the option of advising the Secretary of the Department of Defence, in relation to the Defence intelligence agencies, or the relevant Minister in the case of the other intelligence agencies, of an inquiry and to use these channels to consult on a draft inquiry report.

A further change will enhance accountability arrangements for any use by the Director-General of Security of his power under section 29 of the ASIO Act to authorise intelligence collection for up to 48 hours in advance of ministerial authorisation. This amendment will require IGIS to be advised within three working days of each case where this authority is exercised. A similar change will be made to the similar authorities of the Director-General of Security under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979.

The bill also includes amendments intended to achieve consistent treatment of the intelligence agencies under the Freedom of Information Act.

I commend the bill to honourable senators.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.