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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14676


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (17:39): by leave—The report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act does two things. First, it makes a number of modest recommendations to ensure that the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, who is tasked with reviewing the assistance and access act; and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, who are tasked with overseeing the use of the powers introduced by the assistance and access act, are appropriately resourced. Second, for the first time, appendix A of this report sets out a detailed summary of the many concerns that have been expressed by submitters to the two inquiries that the intelligence committee has conducted in respect of this legislation.

I hope that this report marks the beginning of a more sensible debate about how the new measures introduced by the assistance and access act can be improved during the term of the next parliament and that the concerns of agencies, the local and international tech industry and other stakeholders can be addressed. Labor tried to begin that work during this term of parliament by introducing amendments in the Senate on 14 February 2019. A majority of the Senate voted for those amendments but the government, which still maintains that this rushed legislation is perfect, has shut down debate on those amendments and so, regrettably, we will not be able to pass them before the election.

If Labor is elected, we would pursue those amendments—that is, those amendments already passed by a majority of the Senate—in government. We would also move additional amendments to require agencies to obtain authorisation from a judicial officer in order to issue a technical assistance notice or a technical capability notice under the Telecommunications Act and we would refer the measures introduced by the act to a parliamentary committee to assess their economic impacts, particularly on Australia's local technology industry. Following that assessment, a Labor government would work to move any amendments that are required to reduce unnecessary impacts on Australian businesses. That inquiry would be in addition to the new inquiries that will be shortly conducted by the intelligence committee and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor over the course of the next 18 months.

I turn now to the report of the committee on the Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019. Labor puts the safety and security of Australians first. We support strong laws and seek to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve the best outcomes for keeping our nation safe. The bill would enable authorities to issue a temporary exclusion order to delay and control the return and re-entry into the community of Australians who may pose a threat to Australia and would enable the Minister for Home Affairs to impose conditions on such individuals once they have returned to Australia, to manage the risk that they may pose, such as the imposition of reporting requirements.

It would be remiss of me not to mention, in the context of this report and this bill, that while Labor and Liberal members of the intelligence committee were urgently negotiating the recommendations contained in this report, the current occupant of the Prime Minister's office told journalists on Monday that 'Labor was playing games with this legislation'. That is the level of contempt that this incompetent Prime Minister has for the parliament of Australia. To him, for Labor parliamentarians to engage seriously in a parliamentary review process with our Liberal colleagues is playing games.

I urge the Prime Minister to read this report, because if he does I think he would have to concede that it is a very good thing that my colleagues and I on the intelligence committee didn't just rubber stamp the original version of this bill. That is because, despite being given very little time to conduct its inquiry, the report that has been tabled by the intelligence committee today makes 18 very substantial bipartisan recommendations to improve the bill, a bill that, in the form presented to parliament by the government, was described as 'embarrassing' and 'a dog's breakfast' by the President of the Law Council of Australia.

While Labor members of the committee have ultimately decided to recommend that this bill be passed, with significant amendments, we remain concerned that a number of issues have not been adequately scrutinised by the committee in the limited time available. Most fundamentally, I note that, as well as describing the original version of the bill as 'embarrassing' and 'a dog's breakfast', the President of the Law Council, Arthur Moses SC, and a number of other eminent constitutional experts have stated that the original version of the government's bill is unconstitutional. This is on the basis that it infringes on the constitutional right of abode. Neither the Department of Home Affairs nor any other government representative has sought to engage with or has contradicted the argument put forward by Mr Moses and the other eminent constitutional experts.

In addition to recommending a raft of amendments, the committee has sought to address the specific constitutional concern by recommending that the government obtain legal advice from the Solicitor-General on the constitutional validity of the amended form of the bill. My Labor colleagues and I do not believe that this recommendation goes far enough. This government has a track record of misrepresenting the advice of the Solicitor-General to the intelligence committee and to the Australian people. Trust is something you earn, and when it is abused it is lost. We do not trust this government to faithfully represent the content of the Solicitor-General's advice on this occasion. As such, my Labor colleagues on the committee and I call on the Attorney-General to: first, specifically ask the Solicitor-General to provide the committee with advice on how the bill could be amended, if at all, to ensure that it has strong prospects of withstanding any constitutional challenge; and, second, provide a copy of the Solicitor-General's advice to the committee for review. Clearly Australians are not made safer by laws that are found to be unconstitutional.

Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge the secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Dr Anna Dacre, who will be leaving the parliament at the end of this week. Dr Dacre commenced with the Department of the House of Representatives on 19 August 2002 as an inquiry secretary for the agricultural, fisheries and forestry committee, the environment and heritage committee and the transport and regional services committee—and she has been busy ever since. Since being promoted to committee secretary in November 2004, Dr Dacre has served as the secretary of no fewer than nine parliamentary committees. I've known Anna since she was the secretary and I was the chair of the legal and constitutional affairs committee during the 42nd parliament. Her knowledge and experience were invaluable to me as a first-term member of this parliament. More recently, I've worked with Anna as a member of the intelligence and security committee, where she served as secretary between 2014 and 2015 and then again from 2017 until the present day.

In recent times, the current government has exerted an extraordinary amount of pressure on the intelligence committee to expedite its inquiries into numerous, very significant pieces of national security legislation. That pressure has been borne with grace, good humour and professionalism by Dr Dacre and her excellent team. I have always known Dr Dacre to be a highly professional and diligent public servant. Her contributions to the workings of this parliament have been immense, and I'm sure I speak for all my colleagues on the intelligence committee, Labor and Liberal, when I say that we are sorry to see Anna go. We wish her well in all her future endeavours.