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Thursday, 11 March 2004
Page: 21325

Senator FERGUSON (9:52 AM) —Because of the pressure of time I am only going to speak very briefly. I do want to make a couple of comments. I support the comments of both Senator Sandy Macdonald and Senator Robert Ray that this report makes some important recommendations in relation to the proposed Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2003. There is no doubt that the close scrutiny of the proposed amendments—the original amendments—has made the bill much more acceptable to people on both sides of the parliament.

I particularly want to join with Senator Robert Ray in complimenting ASIS for the cooperation they gave to us when we were trying to deal with this bill and trying to satisfy the concerns that were expressed by a number of members of the committee over some particular amendments that were being made and the overall effect that those amendments would have. In discussions with ASIS I am sure that the concerns that were expressed by the members on that committee were taken on board and we have come up with a series of unanimous recommendations, which is the want of this committee. It is fair to say that the members of this committee do work in a cooperative manner at the times that we deal with legislation in trying to come up with results that will be long term and with satisfactory bills for governments, regardless of whoever might be in government, to work with. I think that is most important. I do particularly thank ASIS.

I do not want to repeat in detail the things that have been said by Senator Robert Ray on the various amendments and the various aspects of the bill, except to say that I note that he mentioned the concern expressed by some members about operations overseas. It is a very difficult decision to make when you are talking about what might or might not happen at some stage in the future and you can only really make what you think is the best balanced decision. I do not envisage that the provisions of this bill are likely to be put in place all that often. We do have to have the bill in place so that there is some form of oversight. The changes that were made to the original bill spread the load, as Senator Robert Ray said, amongst those who have the oversight of what operations might take place overseas and are acceptable to both sides of the parliament. I am very pleased to associate myself with the remarks of both Senator Sandy Macdonald and Senator Robert Ray in bringing this important report to the parliament. Let us hope that we can get on and get the bill through this place as soon as possible.

Question agreed to.