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Wednesday, 19 September 2001
Page: 30942

Mr RUDD (10:38 AM) —I rise in this cognate debate and support this important legislation, the Intelligence Services Bill 2001 and the Intelligence Services (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2001. The agencies which are the subject of this legislation are important and integral parts of this nation's defence of its national security. This has been the truth for some decades. It is doubly the truth today, given the events of the last week.

If recent events demonstrate anything, it is that the challenge of our national security is not just the concern of a narrow elite of the strategic or security policy establishment; it is now the concern of us all. Similarly, the events of the last week demonstrate that questions of foreign policy are not just the concern of a narrow diplomatic elite; they are now the concern of us all. These events demonstrate the total indivisibility of what we have always categorised—falsely, I believe—as the domestic and the international, strategic policy and economic policy, defence policy and social policy. These are not clinically separable concepts any longer, and they have not been for a long time. They are now part of an integrated whole.

Why do I say this? Because in the age of the new security policy, all of us are affected—not just a nation's standing army, not just the naval units of a particular nation state, not just the aircraft of our respective air forces. All of us are now affected. The clinical divide between the military and the civilian no longer exists. What was once the concern of a nation's main army is now the concern of a nation's main street.

The second factor alive in all this is that the threats to our security are now in multiple forms. There are still the so-called classical threats to security, defined in the classical defence policy literature, but there are also so-called soft threats to security: narcotics, illegal people movements and cyberterrorism and its threat to security. Then, of course, there is terrorism itself—physical terrorism of the type we saw graphically and grotesquely at work in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania last week.

The professional defence policy, strategic policy, and security policy literature have debated concepts of total security for almost a quarter of a century. In our policy debates we often conflate these terms as if they are identical. They are not identical. Defence policy and defence studies properly concern the discrete examination of the force structure of the armed forces of a nation and the military doctrine which will be used in the deployment of those armed forces in given strategic scenarios. This is a necessary science and it is one in which this country has a long and proud tradition, with our various academies and professional defence studies institutes.

Security policy is a much more all-encompassing concept. Defence policy is one of its subsets, but it has many other component parts. There is the whole field of economic security with its subfield technological security, the continued viability of a nation's financial infrastructure, of the world's international financial infrastructure and of a nation's physical infrastructure: power generation, transmission, distribution, water reticulation and transportation systems. All of these are component parts of a nation's security policy environment. Added to that we have the field of illegal people movements—23 million internationally displaced persons at present—and the merchants of death who currently prey upon them; we have the field of health and quarantine and a concern about the impact of communicable diseases; and we have the field of international narcotics traffic and its physical assault on our people. Then we have the violence of terrorism itself, global, regional and subregional. Terrorism is a field which is changing in its qualitative state; changing because of the impact of globalisation, with instantaneous communications, rapid transport and near-invisible financial transactions. All of these underpinnings of what we see as the magnificent advances of the global economy are at the same time equipping agents of terrorism worldwide with a new armory which in past decades has not been available to them. Overshadowing all these dimensions of what I have described as a nation's total security, we have the continuing effect of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical and biological.

The changing nature of the threat to a nation's national security, including this nation's national security, requires, I believe, a fundamental re-evaluation of how we best manage security policy in this country. I say that not as some invitation to a rancorous or partisan debate; instead, I believe it is time for a dispassionate discussion amongst us all about how we now integrate the range of security policy capabilities we have and how we enhance those capabilities against the changing nature of the total security policy environment in which this nation now finds itself.

It was in this context that the Leader of the Opposition on 13 September released a statement outlining a series of proposals about how we might begin to do this in the future. One of those proposals, immediately relevant to the propositions I was advancing just now on total security, is the last in this statement, which says that there is a need to:

Establish an integrated national security policy approach by broadening the focus of our Cabinet National Security Committee so that it not only covers traditional issues (defence and foreign policy, security and intelligence, international trade strategy), but also strategic law enforcement policy (drugs, terrorism, border protection, information infrastructure protection, protective security). Government agencies covering these issues must also be more closely integrated.

The practical challenge we face is how we can better integrate the intelligence product of the Office of National Assessments, the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Defence Signals Directorate, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Customs, the Australian Federal Police and the various agencies of state governments currently engaged in the analysis of our security policy environment, and how we can better paint an integrated picture of the changing nature of our security policy environment in any given week, month and year because it now changes quite rapidly.

Our traditional approach in these areas, that of a semi-quinquennial strategic basis document produced by the defence policy establishment about the changing nature of our strategic environment, is, I believe, no longer adequate to this task. Our security policy environment is changing with extraordinary speed and complexity. Providing a mechanism which delivers an integrated analysis of our security policy environment is one thing; providing an integrated set of policy advices to government on what to do about changes in our security policy environment is another; and a third is to provide integrated mechanisms to give effect to policy decisions of government across its various agencies in pursuit of the maintenance of this nation's national security. How all this is to be done is a matter for fair and reasoned debate among us all. One proposal is for an enhanced National Security Committee of the cabinet and perhaps for that to occur with an enhanced secretariat, with personnel drawn from the multiple agencies of the existing security policy establishment. Another proposal which is often advanced is for a fully fledged national security council. I believe these are the parameters of the debate which we as a nation must now have with speed, urgency and without any partisan rancour for, very simply, our national interest now demands it.

However, fundamental to an effective defence policy in the narrow and an effective security policy in the broad is an effective intelligence capability, and this goes to the specific objects of the legislation before the House. Why is intelligence important? For some I think this is self-evident; for others it is less so. I suppose its key component is that, to the extent that it is humanly and technologically possible, we need to see beyond our own immediate horizons in time and space in order to meet any emerging threats to our total security before those threats fully materialise and then assault, weaken or even destroy our security. A second dimension is simply this: intelligence represents relatively inexpensive security. If you get intelligence right, if you can stop or reduce a problem before it requires a massive response involving multiple agencies of state, it is far less expensive for the Australian taxpayer. That is why I have always believed that our intelligence agencies in this nation should be properly resourced without any debate.

As for the immediate provisions of the legislation, the Intelligence Services Bill 2001 places ASIS, DSD and ASIO on a statutory basis. This is to be welcomed by all sides of the parliament. Secondly, it creates oversight of these agencies through a joint parliamentary committee. This is also welcomed by all sides of the parliament. This new mutual engagement between those who work within the agencies and those who occupy benches in this parliament will be an interesting and creative exercise as it unfolds. It will be a challenge to our professionalism and a challenge to our goodwill. I am advised by those who participated in the Joint Select Committee on Intelligence Services in the preparation of this legislation that what has characterised its deliberations and its discussions with the agencies concerned has, in fact, been that spirit of professionalism and goodwill. I believe that this balance that we will seek to achieve between accountability to the parliament and, through the parliament, to the people on the one hand, and the effectiveness of our agencies in the field on the other, is eminently doable.

I conclude by simply saying this: when we talk about the various intelligence agencies of this nation in our public debate, often those who work within them are derided in the media; often they are regarded as incompetent in what they do. Plainly, each of these agencies—as have all agencies of state— have had their ups and downs in their bureaucratic evolution. That is the nature of things. No department of state in this country or in any other Western democracy ever evolves without getting it wrong from time to time. That is just reality. We as a parliament and as a nation need to place on record the fact that we commend the professionalism of these agencies, because they discharge an important function for the nation. When they are attacked, in the main they cannot respond. We need to be mindful of that in this place and across the nation at large. The work which they do is not only important, it requires a high degree of professional ability; and in some cases the work is arduous and dangerous. The staff of these agencies should be commended for their professionalism. I am happy to join those on this side of the House in our support for the legislation.