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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7219

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (18:57): The government does not support this amendment. Reporting publicly on the total number of devices accessed under warrants would not be appropriate as it may reveal sensitive information about ASIO's capability. Pursuant to section 94 of the ASIO Act the organisation's unclassified annual reports tabled in parliament do not contain information that would if disclosed be likely to prejudice security. The total number of warrants sought and obtained by ASIO is not included in any unclassified annual report for that reason. Similarly, provision is made in section 35 of the IGIS Act in relation to the unclassified annual reports of the IGIS. The proposed amendments to the bill would have the effect of overriding those important protections and are inconsistent with what are accepted as the existing principles governing disclosure or, in this case, non-disclosure. Further, it is not necessary to impose a specific annual reporting obligation on the IGIS in relation to the total number of computers accessed by ASIO in accordance with warrants because the IGIS has extensive oversight powers in relation to ASIO under which such information can be requested. The IGIS can of course inspect ASIO's warrant documentation at any time.