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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7255


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (20:55): The government does not support the amendments. Their effect would be to remove the amendment currently proposed in the bill to enable ASIS to provide training in self-defence techniques and the use of weapons to persons from a limited group of foreign partners. The bill implements a recommendation of the PJCIS report—that is, the principal report tabled last year. The committee concluded that:

…the lack of such joint training poses an unacceptable danger to ASIS officers and agents … as ASIS officers are permitted at law to co-operate with certain agencies and use weapons and self-defence techniques to protect themselves and their partner agencies, it is reasonable for ASIS to be able to train with those same partners in the self-defence techniques and with the weapons that are intended to save their lives.

Senator Leyonhjelm raises a concern that the amendment might enable ASIS to train a foreign terrorist organisation or might enable ASIS to provide weapons to an organisation contrary to the restriction of engaging in paramilitary activities. However, there are a number of safeguards in the bill already existing in the act, which means that neither of those things could occur.

Firstly, cooperation with a foreign authority must be approved by the minister and can only be approved after the minister has consulted with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. Under section 13, the approval can only be for the cooperation so far as is necessary for ASIS to perform its functions or so far as it facilitates the performance by ASIS of its functions. Further, the approval of and the training remains subject to the oversight of the IGIS. Secondly, the purpose for which the weapons may be provided to a staff member of an approved foreign authority are also limited by the bill and by the act. It requires the specific approval of the minister and can only be for one of the limited purposes set out here in the amendment. A copy of the minister's approval must be provided to the IGIS. In practice, what it will mean is that weapons would be provided for the purposes of training only.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: I will deal first with Senator Leyonhjelm's amendment (8). The question is that items (9) and (10) in schedule 5 be removed from the bill.

Question negatived.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The next question deals with Senator Leyonhjelm's amendment (9) on sheet 7579. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question negatived.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: I now turn to schedule 6, items 1 to 24, 26 and 4 standing in the name of the Australian Greens.