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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
22/10/2020
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

[17:15]

CHAIR: Welcome. Senator Carr, you have the call.

Senator KIM CARR: The 2017 intelligence review noted that the demands on intelligence:

… are growing due to the increase in the size of the national intelligence community and the greater powers it has been given to address contemporary threats. Accordingly, we recommend that the remit of both the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security be expanded to cover the ten agencies which we consider now properly constitute the national intelligence community. We also recommend a significant strengthening of the Office of the IGIS through a substantial increase to its authorised staffing level.

Have I reported that correctly?

Mr Blight : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I confirm that you have oversight of six of the 10 national intelligence community agencies, but not the remaining four under the Home Affairs portfolio?

Mr Blight : That's correct. Our jurisdiction is set out in the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act.

Senator KIM CARR: The 2017 intelligence review recommended that you actually cover all of those agencies. That's also correct, isn't it?

Mr Blight : It recommended that we cover the intelligence functions of the Australian Federal Police, the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC, the financial regulator.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you advise the committee as to what reason the government has for not amending the IGIS Act to give you that expanded function?

Mr Blight : I think that's a policy question for government.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand that it is, but are you aware of any reason?

Mr Blight : I'm aware that the matter is under active consideration by the government.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Secretary, can you assist me?

Mr Moraitis : Yes. As Mr Blight says, it is under active consideration. There's a series of conversations happening across government about those recommendations and also it's related to other matters that are under consideration by government at the moment.

Senator KIM CARR: I see—including the other review that we spoke of earlier?

Mr Moraitis : You may make that conclusion.

Senator KIM CARR: I may conclude that. It's put to me that the government initially agreed to this—has, in previous iterations, agreed to this recommendation. In fact, wasn't it the case that you were actually recruited in anticipation of this expansion?

Mr Blight : Not me personally. I've been with the office since 2012.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you aware that the government had previously agreed to the expansion?

Mr Blight : The government provided funds to our office in order for us to prepare for expansion, but I don't think that, beyond the statement in the PBS about our preparation, there's been any published response to that recommendation.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you explain to me what the difference is between your oversight functions, and the powers that go with that, compared to the ombudsman?

Mr Blight : The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has a quite broad jurisdiction over the legality and propriety of the actions of the agencies within our jurisdiction. We do a proactive inspection program, so we're very active in inspecting and our staff have direct access to the information held by the intelligence agencies. We also have significant powers to conduct inquiries on our own motion, at the request of a minister or in response to a complaint, and we also have a complaints and a role under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, all directed towards that broad legality and propriety jurisdiction. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is probably better placed to summarise their jurisdiction. A significant amount of their work is driven by complaints and they have a very broad remit across the whole of government. Our jurisdiction is quite specific and our office and staff are trained and equipped for that.

Senator KIM CARR: Would it be fair to say that Australia's national intelligence community has grown and evolved significantly in recent years but, to date, its key oversight and accountability mechanisms have remained comparatively unchanged and, legislatively, remain constrained?

Mr Blight : It is correct that our legislation hasn't changed substantially. We have received additional funding. The 2017 review also recognised that we needed additional resources to do our current job and we have received that funding, as well as funding to prepare for additional jurisdiction.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you able to indicate to this committee what risks present themselves if some of the intelligence entities remain outside the oversight framework that is actually provided by your office?

Mr Blight : There are broad policy risks, which I'm sure the government can speak to. I don't know that there are risks for our office.

Senator KIM CARR: No, not risks to your office. I don't expect that they are going to go after you. I'm thinking about the risks to the Australian community.

Mr Blight : I'm happy to talk about the kind of oversight we provide and the role we perform but I think that's a general policy question the government—on whether additional oversight is appropriate for the additional agencies that now form part of the national intelligence community.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you aware of an article published in TheAustralian on 20 October in which a Home Affairs spokeswoman said that the IGIS oversight of the Home Affairs intelligence division would be unnecessary?

Mr Blight : I'm not aware of the particular article.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you aware of the attitude emanating from within the Home Affairs department—

CHAIR: Senator Carr, you can't put an attitude to the witness.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry, will you take that on notice?

CHAIR: It's a bit like the vibe—I put it to you there's a vibe!

Senator KIM CARR: No. Has it been brought to your attention that there is a view within the Department of Home Affairs that it is not necessary to have an oversight capacity exercised by your office?

Mr Blight : I know a lot about the culture and views of six agencies within my jurisdiction and I would be happy to speak about those.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I understand that you would. But there are four agencies that are not. I know one review has suggested that needs to change, and I will speculate that there is a second review that has suggested that you've been funded to do the work but there seems to be a hold-up somewhere. Would that be a fair summary of events?

Mr Blight : It takes time for the government to develop and consider policies. I know that there can be differences of view but my agency is not a policy agency. We have been consulted in the preparation, and we stand ready and willing to assist as required.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay, here we go. Mr Secretary, now why don't you—

Mr Moraitis : I'll try my best.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, do your best to explain this extraordinary conundrum that seems to have developed between you and the secretary of the home affairs department.

Mr Moraitis : We never had a conundrum. I will just refer to the points that you made about the decision to provide extra resources for the IGIS. Even the PBS on IGIS refers to the growth in FTE over the next two years. As I said, it's been under active consideration, and when I say active I don't mean that in a dismissive way—it's actually true that it's being considered. The scope of the coverage of the office of intelligence and security over the national intelligence community, which has expanded, as you've said, is a matter of active consideration at the moment and I would be optimistic that we come to some clear landing point in the near future. However, it's an ongoing conversation. It goes to the core policy issue that, historically, IGIS is covered for obvious reasons in a different way to, say, the ombudsman, or another regime, would do. It's a very confidential mechanism whereby they provide an oversight function in a very confidential way, which is appropriate in the intelligence community. It is a very well regarded organisation in my view. Personally, my view is that it's best practice to have a system like this in place. I acknowledge that. I know, because the office is now part of our portfolio. We're prepared for their arrival. We built them a specially designed area in a building which is a SCIF so that they can do their work. You know what that means.

Senator KIM CARR: I can imagine!

Mr Moraitis : Yes, it's fun. People find it fun to work there. The government is looking at the coverage. The issue is that historically to date it is coverage of agencies which have an exclusively intelligence function, it would be fair to say. With the growth to the NIC there are agencies—you've alluded to one for example, Home Affairs, which is not exclusively an intelligence agency but there is an intelligence function within that. There have been conversations about how and whether you go about doing that. As you've alluded to, the L'Estrange-Merchant report of a few years ago made some recommendations. Government has considered that and there are other considerations to be taken into account in the near future. Hopefully government will land on an outcome which shows that the decision to provide extra funding and FTE for the organisation was the appropriate one and that we and government are satisfied that the coverage is appropriate given the nature of the NIC as it stands now.

Senator KIM CARR: Was there anyone seconded from IGIS to the Richardson review?

Mr Blight : No.

Senator KIM CARR: So you had no-one in the secretariat, for instance?

Mr Blight : Our office is very small. We were asked by the Richardson review, like many agencies, if it was possible for us to provide a person. At that time we didn't have a person available. So it wasn't that we were excluded from providing someone. We certainly were consulted by the Richardson review. Mr Richardson met with Margaret Stone several times and we have engaged extensively with the review.

Senator KIM CARR: Presumably, given what you've said in previous discussions with this committee, Secretary, you're anticipating that the Richardson review will be released very shortly.

Mr Moraitis : Like what I said yesterday.

Senator KIM CARR: That's exactly what I'm saying.

Mr Moraitis : A discussion about 'soon' versus 'what does soon mean?'

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Very soon. There are not too many weeks left before Christmas. I presume this matter, even in the public version of the review, will become very clear.

Mr Moraitis : I'll leave that to the government to decide.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the problem here that Home Affairs thinks that they're running a law enforcement agency in terms of their intelligence division rather than an intelligence agency.

Mr Moraitis : As I said before, the issue is there's a conceptual issue about the growth of the AIC to the NIC, the creation of the Office of National Intelligence and extra agencies being covered by the remit of IGIS. Historically it was exclusively intelligence agencies. It's reaching a space now where, whether it's the AFP, AUSTRAC, Home Affairs or even ACIC, they do not have an exclusive intelligence function. The issue is then how do you go about covering those aspects? That's an ongoing conversation amongst agencies.

Senator KIM CARR: And it was the position of the 2017 review, it's the position I'm suggesting that's in the Richardson review—it's certainly the position of your predecessor, is it not, Mr Blight? Nick Warner made clear to this committee that intelligence agencies, the 10 agencies, should be subject to oversight by your office.

Mr Blight : I can't recall what Mr Warner said.

Mr Moraitis : It's been quite a while. I'm not sure whether that's absolutely accurate. I'll ask Ms Chidgey—

Senator KIM CARR: It was certainly the case that he—

Senator PATRICK: Mr Pezzullo made a statement on it on day 1 of our hearing.

Mr Moraitis : It's been a while since I've read the review. Let me just say it's a matter for government. At the end of the day that's all I can say. It's under active consideration by government.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much. We'll obviously come back to that matter. That's all of my questions on this.

Senator PATRICK: You're in an acting role at the present moment. It's not a criticism; I'm just trying to get an understanding. Normally the IGIS is a judge or former judge—is that right? Are there qualifications requirements in the act?

Mr Blight : There are no qualification requirements like that in the act. Justice Stone was the first judge appointed to the role.

Senator PATRICK: There are certainly some provisions about payments and entitlements if you're a judge.

Mr Blight : There are, as there are in the Ombudsman Act and most provisions. I think that's the deal with constitutional issues around—

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. I want to go to questions related to someone colloquially known as Witness J. I think his pseudonym is Alan Johns. You're familiar with that? It's in your annual report.

Mr Blight : I'm familiar with Alan Johns as the court-appointed pseudonym for an individual.

Senator PATRICK: This is the secret trial and secret jailing of Mr Johns.

Mr Blight : I'm aware of Alan Johns. I think there are different views on whether there's a secret trial and secret jailing. Those are—

Senator PATRICK: It does get confusing because we've had a few secret trials recently. I'm not asking you to answer on that. You've conducted an inquiry into Witness J relating to the provision of mental health services to intelligence agency employees. You observed that the agency does not refuse any request for support, and furthermore there was a reasonable level of access by the complainant to psychological support. Stepping back, this was originally a PID, a public interest disclosure, made by Mr Johns. You took it over. Can you explain that process?

Mr Blight : We seem to be using Witness J and Johns interchangeably. I'm going to use the name Alan Johns because I think Witness J is a Twitter handle; Alan Johns is a pseudonym. That's what I know about. Alan Johns made a public interest disclosure to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security or to her office. The Inspector-General considered that matter and decided to exercise her authority under the IGIS Act. It was closed under the PID Act and opened under the IGIS Act. She did a preliminary inquiry to determine whether it was a matter appropriate and within jurisdiction, determined it was and then commenced a full capital 'I' inquiry under the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act. A summary version of the outcomes is described in the annual report.

Senator PATRICK: I have read that. How did the IGIS assess what was a reasonable level of access by the complainant to psychological support, noting from your report that you sought advice from the Solicitor-General or from the AGS in relation to workplace—

Mr Blight : From the Australian Government Solicitor. We sought advice from counsel at the Australian Government Solicitor to support the inquiry, particularly about workplace health and safety obligations. The inquiry was in fact led by Ms Stone herself. She conducted the interviews. She undertook the critical analysis and had a significant role in drafting—in fact, drafted the majority of the report. She worked through all of the issues and was assisted by staff who also analysed some of the many thousands of documents that we obtained during that inquiry.

Senator PATRICK: Did she call any psychologists or psychiatrists?

Mr Blight : I don't have the witness list to hand. She certainly took evidence from a range of people who were involved in the matter.

Senator PATRICK: Can you take that on notice and advise the committee as to whether or not she called a psychologist or psychiatrist and, indeed, if that was the case, whether they were independent from the agency or whether they were agency health officials

Mr Blight : I can take that on notice to provide you what information I can. I will note that the questions raised were around whether the individual was denied access. That was one of the central things in the inquiry.

Senator PATRICK: It talks about a reasonable level of access, actually. That's not a question of whether or not there was access per se; it's whether or not it's reasonable. That is in some sense a matter properly for a finding of someone like Justice Stone. However, one would imagine she would seek expert advice.

Mr Blight : I'm happy to take on notice to provide as much information as I can, consistent with security, about the type of witnesses called in the matter.

Senator PATRICK: You've made some observations about the importance of intelligence services having a robust system of mental health and welfare support services in place and that they're readily available to members of the intelligence services. How does IGIS propose to monitor the adequacy of mental health and welfare support provided by the Australian intelligence community?

Mr Blight : Thank you, Senator—that's a good question. For the agencies for which we have employment jurisdiction, this is one of the active and ongoing considerations. We have a number of ways of gauging this. One is that we keep it on the agenda, the live agenda, for the regular roundtable meetings we have with the agencies to get updates on their services. We also have direct access into their systems, so we can monitor what they are telling their staff, what guidance they are giving their staff about how to access services—for example, on their own intranet sites, the classified sites. We also monitor complaints—if we receive any complaints—from staff or former staff about this issue. So we've got a range of mechanisms, ranging from dialogue with the agency and inspection or viewing of their own materials through to monitoring complaints.

Senator PATRICK: Do you have any in-house mental health or welfare experts?

Mr Blight : Within the office, no. We're a very small agency. We do have some psychologists on a retainer, that we can call for a range of advice, for everything from our own organisational security assessments through to asking specific questions. So we don't have any staff in the office—as I say, we're very small—but we do have access to psychologists.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you, I'm glad to hear that. Just moving to a different topic now—I've got two more topics.

Mr Blight : Sorry—I said retainer; I should have said contract. This is to be clear on the Hansard. We have a contractual arrangement where we can pay them for advice and time. We don't pay them a retainer, just to clarify.

Senator PATRICK: Fantastic—thank you. Your annual report provides an overview of IGIS's regular inspections across agencies. Most of the matters discussed appear to involve relatively minor administrative and operational glitches. However, there were several matters relating to ASIO's cooperation and sharing of information with foreign intelligence services. I just want to ask a couple of questions around that. How does IGIS broadly tackle the monitoring of liaisons and cooperation with foreign intelligence services? In some of those instances, it was about that liaison that presented a problem and resulted, in short, in having a foreign intelligence service conduct an act that wasn't quite properly approved—a combined operation.

Mr Blight : Without going too much into the detail of that operation, I could talk generally. This is an issue for all the intelligence services and an area of focus for us because engagement with foreign intelligence agencies can, particularly, raise a whole range of issues but it's, of course, a natural part of intelligence activity and liaison. Our access allows us to speak directly to the liaison officers, and, indeed, pre-COVID, when there was overseas travel, the inspector-general or staff would visit key Australian liaisons overseas and talk to them about their activities. The agencies also keep reasonably good records of their communications. They have a system of formal communications with other agencies. All of those are open to our inspections. Sometimes we do specific country focus inspections. So let's say, for ASIS, if they have a liaison relationship with country 'Examplestan', then we might focus on that for a month. We'll look at all of their internal correspondence and their communications with that nominal country and, if necessary, speak to the ASIS officers involved. The same can translate to ASIO.

Senator PATRICK: Do you ever speak to the foreign service itself?

Mr Blight : No. I can't recall any occasion where we would do that. That would be difficult to see how that would be within our specific jurisdiction, because our jurisdiction is over the Australian intelligence agencies and our secrecy provisions are quite detailed on who we can disclose information to, so I would be surprised if that was within our ordinary range of activities.

Senator PATRICK: Can you check that for me, because it would seem to me that a jurisdiction is a trigger event that then allows you to do a range of things. That's normally how it might work in a court, for example: you establish jurisdiction. Then in some sense the question might be: is there anything that fetters you? It might be the inability to raise a matter that involves secrecy with the foreign entity. I'm just really interested in—

Mr Blight : Sure. I can take it on notice. But, if I could say a little more, I also think there'd probably be some nervousness from foreign countries about speaking to an Australian oversight body. What we do have is quite good relationships with our Five Eyes counterparts, for example, and this is an issue we've discussed with them. We've even had a range of discussions, by classified means, with some of those Five Eyes countries.

Senator PATRICK: Okay. In those circumstances—and I'm just going to make a presumption that most of the operations would involve the Five Eyes partners—you're saying there is the ability to hold classified discussions. Whilst I appreciate the bit about the nervousness, with such an important thing as oversight, you might at least ask. Obviously you wouldn't have jurisdiction to compel, but you might at least ask.

Mr Blight : I think the FIORC, or the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council, which is the Five Eyes body, is working. Pre COVID, it was meeting every 12 to 18 months and working through a range of issues about how to learn from each other's lessons and how to cooperate. We do have some on-foot projects as a group to, for example, look at how each to act within our own jurisdiction to look at how our agencies interact with their overseas counterparts. That project that I have in mind, though it's been interrupted somewhat by COVID, would be each agency, including us, acting within our own jurisdiction and publishing reports within our own laws and in accordance with our own rules which looked at the interaction of our side of those relationships.

Senator PATRICK: Do you take into account the legal and human rights background of a foreign security agency in determining the appropriateness and propriety of cooperation and information exchanges?

Mr Blight : Absolutely we do, and so do the agencies. One of the key things we look at is what systems and processes there are in the agencies for making those assessments, what information they draw on, how well they share information with other Australian agencies about potential breaches of human rights and how they react to credible allegations of breaches of human rights. That is definitely part of our mandate, and an active part—something we do routinely and regularly. The agencies are well placed to liaise with each other, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and with their own counterparts overseas to make assessments and judgements about the human rights records and the conduct of a range of bodies.

Senator PATRICK: Do you consult with Foreign Affairs in relation to that?

Mr Blight : I don't think my office has consulted directly with Foreign Affairs, but one of the things we look to do is ensure the agencies are drawing on all the available Australian and other resources, and it's primarily them making the judgements. We come in after, look at what they've done and assess the reasonableness of what they've done and what information they obtained. So they're the ones up the front at the pointy end, if you like, making the judgements, and we're looking for them to have those contemporaneous consultations.

Senator PATRICK: There are just a couple more to go, Chair. Have you identified any areas of improvement for the agencies or ASIO in regard to human rights?

Mr Blight : I think that in our annual report we identified some record-keeping and communications improvements, but we're always looking at best practice in this area and encouraging the agencies to look against each other and each other's practices. One of the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council projects I mentioned, which I think is mentioned, is how we and each of our counterparts look at the standards that agencies practise. In Britain, for example, the IPCO has published some publicly available documents and standards on their assurances project about how British agencies make assessments, and that document's publicly available. That is one we're discussing with our agencies.

Senator PATRICK: In your report, you did suggest that ASIO senior management oversight be directed towards areas of highest human rights risk. What are those areas?

Mr Blight : Areas of high human rights risk are, as you've identified, dealings in countries that do not have a strong human rights record. Australia's intelligence agencies operating overseas need to interact with a broad range of other intelligence services, not all of them have as strong a reputation as Australia does in human rights. We ask the intelligence agencies, and they do, to focus their efforts on assessing where they are interacting, why they are interacting there, how they are making those judgements. I have to say, they do put a lot of thought and executive thought and consideration into those. It's a matter that comes up fairly regularly for discussion, and is an ongoing topic of conversation between us and all the intelligence agencies.

Senator PATRICK: I might very quickly go to the COVIDSafe app report. My understanding is this report relates to the fact that an intelligence agency may accidentally, for example, download or get access to COVIDSafe data, and that's not necessarily an offence, provided they delete it immediately. You're looking into those areas. When is that report likely to be completed and handed to the Information Commissioner?

Mr Blight : Intelligence agencies may incidentally access COVIDSafe information, usually, I'll note, in an encrypted form. Nevertheless, even though it's encrypted, the rules still apply. We agreed with the Information Commissioner that we would look at the agencies within our jurisdiction and provide her with information. Her statutory obligation is to provide a report on the first six months of the operation. The end of that six months is on or about 14 November, so we intend to cover pretty much that whole period and then write to her. That letter is already drafted; that correspondence is well developed. We just want to make sure we're covering the full period so that report is as useful to her as possible. So it's almost concluded.

Senator PATRICK: You're really just waiting for the time to roll out to make sure—

Mr Blight : For our advice to her to be as useful as possible, I think it needs to cover her statutory period.

Senator PATRICK: Is there a classified version of that report?

Mr Blight : No, there isn't. With this project, we have overlapping jurisdiction with the Information Commissioner, in a sense. We set out to reach a pragmatic position, which is that we are equipped and have staff with the right security clearances to access the intel agencies' information. We know how their systems operate. The Information Commissioner is charged with publishing, or tabling in parliament I think, her report. So we agreed at the outset that what we would do is prepare an unclassified document for her use. That said, inspecting agencies' interception activities is a standard part of our work, and we will have, as an ongoing part of our inspections so long as the COVIDSafe app is operating, the job of looking at how agencies continue to deal with any COVIDSafe app information that they may incidentally collect.

Senator PATRICK: Noting it's an unclassified report, is it your intention to make that public, or are you going to leave that to the Information Commissioner?

Mr Blight : I'd probably have to discuss that with the Information Commissioner, but the intent is that she would include as much as she wished of ours into her report. I would discuss it with her before offering to put it on our website as well. But, given that it's unclassified, in principle our findings should end up in the public domain.

Senator PATRICK: Finally, I'm going to read out something that I want to get a better understanding on. In one of your reports you said:

ASIO notified IGIS of an incident where it had received a disclosure of information from a foreign partner service about an Australian citizen which could not have been collected lawfully by ASIO without a computer access warrant under s 25A of the ASIO Act.

Does that mean that there was a foreign service engaging in access to data on an Australian's computer hardware, or mobile phone or something within Australia?

Mr Blight : One of the challenges that the intel agencies—Australian, and overseas I assume—face is that it's no longer easy to know exactly where a device is. The types of activities ASIO undertakes under computer access warrants, which are set out in the legislation—to put it in lay terms: they grab data off a computer. Computers are mobile these days and 'computer' is broad term; devices are mobile. It is not impossible for an Australian agency to act on what they believe is a device in Australia, only to find out later that the device was, in fact, located overseas at the time they took the act. That happens, devices move; it's not easy to know where they are. I think it's reasonable to assume that, occasionally, the reverse is true.

Senator PATRICK: So, in this instance perhaps one of our Five Eyes partners was conducting a lawful operation from their perspective and it turned out it was in Australia. They handed over the information and actually ASIO couldn't take that information, because it was on an Australian citizen and obtained without a warrant. Is that what you're suggesting?

Mr Blight : That's broadly it. Obviously I don't want to identify which overseas country was involved.

Senator PATRICK: No, and I'm not asking you to.

Mr Blight : But it's correct that ASIO received the information, recognised that there was an issue here and raised it with us, and we worked through with them, and they worked through with their partner, how to prevent this type of thing occurring. Interception in a modern age—it is actually very difficult and complex at times to understand where a device is. It was easy in the days of copper wire. But, as you'd appreciate, with mobile devices it's not always easy to block in a 100 per cent accurate way. But the available blocks are used.

Senator PATRICK: The whole thing just raises the question in my mind that if someone's reached into Australia and got access to data then what's the difference between a cyberattack from a foreign state and the sort of activity you just described?

Mr Blight : I think there are two differences. One is intention. There was no suggestion that there was a deliberate intention to do something on Australian soil. The question is more around how difficult it is to know where devices are. The second is around disclosure. The partner agency and ASIO had an open discussion. I don't think that's quite what happens in the foreign interference cases that ASIO's involved with. I think there is quite a distinction there.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. That was very helpful.

CHAIR: We're grateful for your attendance and your assistance today, Mr Blight. You are excused with our thanks. The next item on our agenda is the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We are of course running wildly behind time. I'm keen for us to catch that up with as many efficiencies as we can find. Senator Carr, do you have any ideas about that?

Senator KIM CARR: I'm afraid that I have a substantive amount in regard to the AAT, but I wish to advise the committee that the I've put my questions to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator KIM CARR: And questions to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will all be put on notice, from my point of view.

CHAIR: Noting that it is predominantly the opposition's opportunity. I'm sure those on the crossbench are prepared to make some similar compromises.

Senator SIEWERT: I've just had a message. Senator Waters would like to ask the Ombudsman some questions in person, rather than on notice.

CHAIR: I know she would like to, but is she able to put them on notice? I'd like a unicorn!

Senator SIEWERT: Well, this is estimates. And I haven't heard from Senator Steele-John yet, but I'm very convinced that he's going to want to ask the royal commission some questions.

CHAIR: But could they be put on notice? Can you liaise with him?

Senator SIEWERT: No. I know he won't want to put those on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Madam Chair, the point I'm making is that we run a terrible risk that the officers will be sitting here and won't be called, because of the time restrictions, and they'll have to be referred to a spillover day. That's the judgement you have to make at this time.

CHAIR: I'm prepared to do everything practical to make that happen.

Senator KIM CARR: But that's got to be put back to the senators who want to ask those questions.

Senator SIEWERT: Senator Waters has said that she can put her questions to the Ombudsman on notice, but she would like a decent chunk of time to talk to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Senator PATRICK: I want to speak to them, too.

CHAIR: If the Greens are prepared to compromise on the Ombudsman, I'd be grateful for that. And perhaps, Senator Patrick, you could compromise on the Office of the DPP.

Senator PATRICK: I just want five minutes with them. It's a question that involves discretion that I don't think can be asked on notice. It's only five minutes.

CHAIR: Well, I can't force you; I can only encourage. What about INSLM?

Senator PATRICK: I think I can let them go.

CHAIR: Well, there's something of a compromise there. I'll just put on the record that senators are willing to put on notice their questions for INSLM and for the Ombudsman. We'll otherwise run with the program in order, noting that if we want to avoid a spillover we're all going to have to pitch in with some efficiencies. I'm grateful to Senator Carr for his willingness to work on that. That's great. Thanks everybody for your perseverance.

Proceedings suspended from 17 : 57 to 19 : 04