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Ministers of State (Checks for Security Purposes) Bill 2019

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2016-2017-2018-2019

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

MINISTERS OF STATE (CHECKS FOR SECURITY PURPOSES) BILL 2019

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Patrick)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



MINISTERS OF STATE (CHECKS FOR SECURITY PURPOSES) BILL 2019

 

OUTLINE

 

The purpose of the Ministers of State (Checks for Security Purposes) Bill 2019 is to ensure that the Prime Minister is fully informed of any security issues that may arise from the personal background and circumstances of persons who have been appointed as Ministers of State including Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. 

 

Ministers of State occupy positions of the highest trust within the Australian Government.  Cabinet Ministers are privy to the most sensitive decisions and information, including the highest levels of national security classified information.  Other Ministers, Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries also have routine access to highly sensitive information including national security information. 

 

Ministers of State are currently exempt from the security checking and clearance processes that apply to all Australian Government personnel who are allowed access to security classified government information.  Security checking and clearance requirements apply to the staff of Ministers, but not to Ministers themselves. 

 

This Bill seeks to strengthen security at the highest levels of the Australian Government.  While avoiding subjecting Ministers to a security clearance process that would override the Prime Minister’s independent decisions on Ministerial appointments, the Bill will ensure that the Prime Minister has access to relevant security information that may arise from comprehensive examination of the background and circumstances of persons appointed as Ministers. 

 

Security information relating to Ministers, conveyed in the form of reports by the Director-General of Security, will provide the Prime Minister with confidence that comprehensive checks have been made to identify any possible security issues that might affect a Minister’s ability to perform their duties including maintaining Cabinet confidentiality and protecting other sensitive and national security classified information.  In the event that security background checks reveal an issue of security concern, the Prime Minister will be free to determine what steps might be required to resolve the matter.  

 

Implementation of such a scheme would address a significant gap in Australia’s Protective Security Framework.  In this the Bill supports the objectives of recent legislation relating to espionage and foreign interference in Australia and will provide the Parliament and the Australian public greater assurance that security will be maintained at the highest levels of the Australian Government. 

 

Ministers of State

 

Section 64 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of Ministers of State who are members of the Federal Executive Council and are responsible for the administration of government departments.  A Minister shall not hold office for more than three months unless he or she becomes a Senator or a Member of the House of Representatives. 

 

Appointments of Ministers are made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.  The Prime Minister determines which Ministers serve in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.  The responsibilities of Ministers are set out in Administrative Arrangements Orders, made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. 

 

The Prime Minister’s recommendations to the Governor-General concerning the appointment of Ministers and their duties are matters of political judgment for the Prime Minister.  Those recommendations may be informed or influenced by a range of factors including the parliamentary composition of the government, internal processes of the political party or parties forming the government, as well as the Prime Minister’s assessment of the suitability of individuals to take on ministerial responsibilities. 

 

The Ministers of State Act 1952 provides that up to thirty persons may be appointed as Ministers of State and up to twelve Ministers of State designated as Parliamentary Secretaries.  In September 2015 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the title Parliamentary Secretary would be re-designated as Assistant Minister.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministry presently comprises 30 Ministers (23 Cabinet Ministers and seven Ministers outside Cabinet) and twelve Assistant Ministers.  

 

143 people that have been appointed as a Ministers of State (variously designated as Prime Minister, Minister, Assistant Minister or Parliamentary Secretary, since the appointment of the first Rudd Ministry (sworn in on 3 December 2007).  Of these 68 were in Labor Ministries and 75 were in Coalition Ministries. 

 

Australian Government security clearance requirements

 

The current Australian Protective Security Policy Framework (APSPF) observes that “access to sensitive and security classified information necessitates a high level of assurance of a person’s integrity. This is due to the potential harm associated with compromise of that information.” 

 

A key component of Australian Government protective security arrangements is the requirement that persons with ongoing access to sensitive or security classified information or material must be security cleared at an appropriate level.

 

The Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA) was established within the Department of Defence from October 2010 to centrally administer security vetting on behalf of most Australian government departments and agencies, as well as state and territory agencies.  The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) undertakes security clearance checking for its own personnel and those of other intelligence agencies. 

 

The APSPF sets out four levels of security clearance checking, each involving more rigorous checking:

 

·                 Baseline Vetting permits access to classified information up to and including the PROTECTED level.



·                 Negative Vetting Level 1 permits access to classified information up to and including the SECRET level.



·                 Negative Vetting Level 2 permits access to classified information up to and including the TOP SECRET level.



·                 Positive Vetting permits access to information at all classification levels, including certain types of caveated and codeword information. Positive vetting is a requirement for employees of Australian intelligence agencies and other personnel with ongoing access to the most highly security classified information. 



Negative Vetting Level 2 checking includes verification of identity, confirmation of Australian citizenship and status of any other citizenships, a background check covering residences, employment and other personal details over the previous 10 years, an official secrets declaration and a statutory declaration covering the provision of information, referee checks, a digital footprint check, a national police records check, a comprehensive financial statement and financial history check, a security assessment ASIO, and a security interview. 

 

Positive Vetting includes the same checks as Negative Vetting Level 2 with the addition of a background check covering more than 10 years from the age of 16, additional financial checking with supporting documentation, a financial probity check, and a psychological assessment. 

 

The AGSVA sums up the need for security clearances as follows: 

 

Misuse or mishandling of classified information or resources, whether deliberate or accidental, can have serious consequences for the Australian Government.

 

For this reason, the government needs to be sure that people who have access to classified information and resources can be relied on to respect and protect classified information and resources appropriately.

 

The security clearance process is one of the mechanisms used to ensure classified information and resources are only entrusted to suitable people who demonstrate a proper appreciation of their security responsibilities and obligations.

 

The security clearance process, applied to many thousands of Australian public servants, Australian Defence Force personnel, law enforcement personnel, government contractors and state and territory government personnel whose duties require access to sensitive or national security classified Australian Government information is an essential foundation for the Australian Government’s protective security framework including the investigation of foreign espionage and interference activities. 

 

Current policy exemption for Ministers of State from security clearance processes

 

The current Australian Protective Security Policy Framework identifies certain Australian office holders who are not required to hold a security clearance to access security classified information while exercising the duties of their office. 

 

These office holders include:

 

·                 Members and Senators of the Commonwealth, state parliaments and territory legislative assemblies;

 

·                 judges of the High Court of Australia, state Supreme Courts, the Family Court of Australia, and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia;



·                 royal commissioners;



·                 the Governor-General, state governors, Northern Territory administrator;



·                 members of the Federal Executive Council, and



·                 appointed office holders with enabling legislation that gives the same privileges as the office holders already identified e.g. members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.



Under this policy Ministers of State are excluded from security clearance requirements by virtue of their status as Members of Parliament and as members of the Federal Executive Council. 

 

Former Ministers who are no longer Members of Parliament are also excluded by virtue of the fact that they remain ex officio members of the Executive Council.  However their access to classified information would have to arise from on-going official duty. 

 

The exemption from security clearances for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries was first publicly acknowledged in answers given by the then Attorney-General, the Hon Daryl Williams MP, to questions on notice asked in the House of Representatives in 2002.  However no explanation was given for this policy which appears to date back to the beginning of the Australian Government's security clearance system in the 1940s. 

 

The current APSPF advances no reasons to support the policy to exempt certain office holders from security clearance requirements.  

 

With regard to Members of Parliament it may be argued that Parliamentarians are elected by the people and that it would be inappropriate to impose any executive government advisory or decision-making process that might impede their access to government information. 

 

The underlying presumption may also be that the processes of party preselection, election to parliament and political/media scrutiny obviates the need for a security checking process for Ministers or other members of parliament with access to sensitive and security classified information. 

 

However such arguments are yet to be advanced by Government as an explanation for the current exemption concerning Ministers of State who, of the exempt classes of office holders, have the most extensive and ongoing access to sensitive and security classified information.  

 

Aside from Ministers of State, most Members of Parliament do not have ongoing access to sensitive and/or national security classified government information. 

 

Arrangements are in place for the Leader of the Opposition to be briefed about classified matters relating to ASIO (Section 21 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 - the ASIO Act), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Signals Directorate (sections 19 and 27D of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 ), and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (subsection 35(3) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 ). 

 

Members of the Parliament who are members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence Services also have access to classified information provided by intelligence agencies to the Joint Committee (Schedule 1 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 ). 

 

Other Members of Parliament including the Shadow Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for Defence, and parliamentary committee members inquiring into sensitive security classified issues may also be provided with occasional security classified briefings. 

 

Compared to Ministers of State, however, access by other Members of Parliament to security classified information is intermittent, is not on-going, and is only allowed under conditions and in circumstances strictly determined by the executive government. 

 

Canadian security clearance processes relating to Ministers and Members of Parliament

 

Canada has a Westminster-style system of responsible ministerial government in a federal context similar to Australia.  Canadian Ministers are all Members of Parliament and, as in Australia are appointed as Ministers by the Governor-General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister. 

 

In contrast to current Australian policy, the Government of Canada conducts security background checks in relation to Federal Ministers. 

 

This policy was introduced by the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a context of concerns about foreign espionage and interference in Canada.  The policy has continued under the Liberal Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  This policy appears to be broadly accepted as compatible with longstanding ministerial and parliamentary conventions. 

 

The Canadian Privy Council Office (the secretariat of the federal Cabinet of Canada) arranges for security background checks to be conducted in relation to Members of Parliament who are being considered by the Prime Minister for appointment as Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries.  The Privy Council Office has indicated that the security background checking process entails records checks with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, a check with the Canada Revenue Agency regarding tax compliance, and a check with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy regarding bankruptcy and insolvency.  Prospective Ministers are required to provide the Privy Council Office with extensive personal information including financial disclosures.  Security interviews are also conducted. 

 

The arrangements for security checking of Canadian Ministers are informal and ultimately at the discretion of the Prime Minister.  In 2015 Prime Minister Harper directed that Ministerial security checks be renewed every two years. 

 

Members of the Canadian Parliament serving on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (the Canadian equivalent of the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence Services) are subject to a statutory requirement to obtain and maintain a security clearance from the Government of Canada ( National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act , SC 2017, C-15, s 10.)

 



 

Security background checking for Australian Ministers of State

 

It is highly anomalous that Australian Ministers of State, office holders who participate in the highest levels of executive government decision making and who have access to some of the most sensitive and highly classified government information, should be exempt from a mandatory security background checking process. 

 

The number of persons appointed as Ministers of State is significant - 143 over the past eleven years.  It can be reasonably assumed that a similar number will be appointed over the next decade. 

 

Regrettably it cannot be assumed that persons appointed as Ministers will always be free of characteristics, activities, associations, connections or obligations that may compromise, or risk compromise of national security within the executive government. 

 

Recent experience concerning non-compliance by Members of Parliament with constitutional requirements for election to the Commonwealth Parliament show that party preselection processes, electoral and media scrutiny as well as selection to serve in the Ministry cannot be relied on to identify and resolve matters that would be an issue in a security background checking process. 

 

Instances of corruption involving Australian political figures including Ministers and Members of Parliament at the State and Federal levels show that Ministers may succumb to temptations that may make them vulnerable to compromise.  Over the past decade issues have also arisen relating to the involvement of Members of Parliament including Ministers and Shadow Ministers with foreign persons and organisations that have raised security issues.  There are numerous examples in a range of overseas jurisdictions of parliamentarians, including Ministers, who have been compromised by foreign intelligence services or have otherwise engaged in activities highly prejudicial to the national security of their country.  It would be naïve to think the Australian Ministers of State will always be immune from such failings. 

 

A security checking process for Ministers of State should not involve a potential administrative veto over the appointment of Ministers or their continuance in office. 

 

Recognising the special position of democratically elected Members of Parliament, this Bill provides for the establishment of a mandatory security background checking process to provide information to the Prime Minister and thereby ensure that the Prime Minister is fully informed of any security issues that may arise from the personal background and circumstances of persons who have been appointed as Ministers of State. 

 

This process will apply to persons who have been appointed as Ministers of State including Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.  It would not apply to Members of Parliament generally, only to those appointed to Ministerial office in the executive government. 

 

The security checking process would involve the preparation of reports by the Director-General of Security on any matters relating to security that arise from a comprehensive examination of the personal background and circumstances of Ministers. 

 

Such reports would be solely for the information of the Prime Minister and would be subject to strict security arrangements. 

 

The preparation of reports on security matters would not constitute a security clearance in the form of those applied to Australian Government personnel and other persons under the Australian Protective Security Policy Framework and would not constitute a security assessment made under Part IV of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (ASIO Act).  

 

Rather, reports would be available solely for the confidential information of the Prime Minister who would be free to respond however he or she considered appropriate.  Matters concerning the appointment of Ministers, their duties and the composition of the Ministry would remain matters of political judgment for the Prime Minister.  However, those judgments and decisions would be informed by comprehensive reports relating to security. 

 

The Bill proposes that reports relating to security will be prepared by the Director-General of Security, rather than another agency such as the AGSVA.  This is most appropriate given and sensitivity of this task and the statutory provisions that govern the independent and apolitical work of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. 

 

The roles of the Director-General of Security and ASIO proposed in this Bill are set within ASIOs statutory function set out in paragraph 17(1)(a) of the ASIO Act “to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security”. 

 

“Security” is defined in section 4 of the ASIO Act as: 

 

(a)  the protection of, and of the people of, the Commonwealth and the several States and Territories from:

(i)  espionage;

(ii)  sabotage;

(iii)  politically motivated violence;

(iv)  promotion of communal violence;

(v)  attacks on Australia’s defence system; or

(vi)  acts of foreign interference;

whether directed from, or committed within, Australia or not; and

(aa) the protection of Australia’s territorial and border integrity from serious threats; and

(b)  the carrying out of Australia’s responsibilities to any foreign country in relation to a matter mentioned in any of the subparagraphs of paragraph (a) or the matter mentioned in paragraph (aa).



Also of relevance is section 29 of the ASIO Act which sets out the special responsibility of the Director-General of Security to ensure that ASIO’s work is strictly limited to what is necessary for the purposes of the discharge of its functions, and to ensure that ASIO “is kept free from any influences or considerations not relevant to its functions and nothing is done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned to further or protect the interests of any particular section of the community, or with any matters other than the discharge of its functions.”

 

The Bill does not limit the ability of the Prime Minister to seek and obtain security advice from the Director-General of Security at any time relating to Ministers or persons who may be under consideration for possible appointment as a Minister.  A Prime Minister may or may not choose to seek such advice prior to recommending a person to the Governor-General for appointment as a Minister of State.  This will remain a matter for the discretion of the Prime Minister.  It should also be recognised that the formation of a new Ministry and the appointment of new Ministers may take place very quickly and that time may not be available for any consultation between the Prime Minister and the Director-General of Security concerning any security issues relating to possible ministerial appointees. 

 

The Bill will establish a mandatory requirement for the Prime Minister to direct to the Director-General of Security to provide reports on matters relating to security that arise from examination of the personal background and circumstances of persons appointed as Ministers of State.  The Prime Minister will be obliged to issue such directions within 14 days of the appointment of a Minister (and from the commencement of the Act) and the Director-General will be required to furnish a report to the Prime Minister within 120 days. 

 

The Bill requires to Director-General to obtain information and undertake inquiries that are equivalent to the information and inquiries required for security purposes of ASIO employees. 

In practice this will involve inquiries and information gathering equivalent to that required for Positive Vetting to allow access to information and resources at all classification levels, including certain types of caveated and codeword information.  This level of investigation and checking would be appropriate for Ministers of State given their access to the most sensitive and highest levels of classified information. 

 

The security checking proposed by this Bill would inevitably involve intrusive inquiries into the personal background and circumstances of Ministers of State.  While some Ministers may find this uncomfortable it should be accepted as part of their ministerial duty and a necessary measure to protect national security.  However it should be emphasised that the resultant reports will be required to only contain information and advice that is strictly relevant to security as defined in the ASIO Act. 

 

The Bill also contains provisions for the safeguarding of reports and requires the Director-General of Security to ensure that reports are properly secured and ensuring that reports and all information obtained in the course of making inquiries are only used for the purposes of the Act - that is informing the Prime Minister about security issues relating to Ministers. 

 

The work of the Director-General of Security and ASIO under the provisions of this legislation will also be subject to the oversight role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security under the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986

 

Overall, the Ministers of State (Checks for Security Purposes) Bill 2019 will strengthen protective security within Australia’s executive government by ensuring that the Prime Minister is fully informed of any security issues arising from the background and circumstances of Ministers.  Persons who wish to be considered for possible appointment to Ministerial office will be clearly and transparently forewarned of the background security checking process they will be subject to and assured that checking process will be undertaken by the Director-General of Security in complete confidential and apolitical circumstances. 

 



 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1: Short Title

 

1.         This clause is a formal provision and specifies that the short title of the Act may be cited as the Ministers of State (Checks for Security Purposes) Act 2019. 

 

Clause 2: Commencement

 

2.         This clause provides for the commencement of the whole of the proposed Act to be the day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.  However, if the provisions do not commence within the period of 3 months beginning on the day the proposed Act receives the Royal Assent, they commence on the day after the end of that period

 

Clause 3 -- Simplified outline of the Act

 

3.         This clause sets out the broad function of the proposed Act, namely to create an obligation for the Prime Minister to direct the Director-General of Security to provide a report on any security matters arising from examination of the personal background and circumstances of Ministers of State.

 

Clause 4 - Definitions

 

4.         This clause defines terms used in the Bill in order to avoid doubt and clarify the intended meaning of each word for the specific purposes of the Bill.

 

Clause 5 - Reports on security matters

 

5.         Proposed subsection 5(1) provides that the Prime Minister must, not later than 14 days after the appointment of a Minister of State, direct the Director-General of Security to provide a report on matters relating to security arising from examination of the personal background and circumstances of the Minister.  Although a Minister of State, the Prime Minister is excluded from being the subject of a report as the purpose of such reports is to provide information relating to security matters to the Prime Minister. Subsection 5(2) further provides that the Prime Minister must, not later than 14 days after commencement of this Act, direct the Director-General to provide a report on matters relating to security arising from examination of the personal background and circumstances of all current Ministers of State. This provision covers persons who are serving as Ministers of State at the time of commencement of the proposed Act.  Directions by the Prime Minister must be made in writing (Subsection 5(3)). 

 

6.         Proposed subsection 5(4) provides that the Director-General of Security must, for the purposes of preparing a report concerning a Minister of State, obtain information and undertake inquiries that are equivalent to the information and inquiries required for the clearance for security purposes of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation employees.  This provision provides that the background and circumstances of Ministers will be examined to the same degree of comprehensiveness and rigour as is required for Australian Government personnel with ongoing access to all levels of security classified information including Top Secret material and certain types of caveated and codeword information.  This level of security checking - Positive Vetting - is appropriate for Ministerial office holders involved in the highest levels of government decision making with ongoing access to the most sensitive and highest level of security classified information. 

7.         Proposed subsection 5(5) provides that the Director-General of Security may in writing authorise an ASIO employee to obtain information and undertake inquiries on behalf of the Director-General for the purposes of preparing the report or any additional report.  This provision allows the Director-General to direct ASIO staff to undertake the necessary work to support the preparation of reports relating to Ministers.

 

8.         Proposed subsection 5(6) creates an obligation for a Minister of State to provide the Director-General of Security with any information requested by the Director-General or an authorised ASIO employee for the purposes of preparing the report for the Prime Minister.  A Minister of State may commit an offence if the Minister provides false or misleading information or documents in relation to reports on matters relating to security (see sections 137.1 and 137.2 of the Criminal Code 1995 ).

 

9.         Proposed subsection 5(7) provides that where the Director-General of Security has provided the Prime Minister with a report in relation to a Minister of State, the Prime Minister may direct the Director-General to obtain further information and provide an additional report.  This provision allows the Prime Minister to seek further information to clarify any security issues raised in a report or to otherwise seek an update on security information and advice previously provided by the Director-General. 

 

10.       Proposed subsection 5(8) provides that the Director-General of Security must provide a report or an additional report relating to a Minister of State to the Prime Minister in writing; and within 120 days of the day the Prime Minister directed that the report be prepared.  This timeframe is sufficient to allow the Director-General of Security to undertake comprehensive inquiries which should be given high priority within the work of ASIO.  In the event that this timeframe is insufficient to complete inquiries it would be open to the Director-General to make a report that advises that inquiries are incomplete, and the Prime Minister may direct the preparation of an additional report. 

 

11.       Proposed subsection 5 (9) provides that a report or an additional report prepared by the Director-General of Security must only contain information and advice that is strictly relevant to matters relating to security. This provision is consistent with the Director-General of Security’s responsibilities and ASIO’s functions as set out in the ASIO Act.  Although a wide range of personal information may be collected during inquiries made under proposed subsection 5(4), the Director-General’s report must only contain advice or information that is strictly relevant to the definition of security contained in section 4 of the ASIO Act.  Other personal, financial or political information which is not relevant to security would be excluded. 

 

Clause 6 - Status of reports by the Director-General

 

12.       Proposed section 6 provides that a report or additional report made by the Director-General of Security under proposed section 5 is not a security assessment made under Part IV of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.  Reports and additional reports made under Section 5 are confidential reports for the information of the Prime Minister to inform what are political decisions about Ministerial appointments and responsibilities.  Reports and additional reports made under proposed section 5 are not security assessments subject to notification and potential review by the Security Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

 



 

Clause 7 - Safeguarding of reports

 

13.       Proposed subsection 7(1) provides that the Prime Minister must return a report or additional report to the Director-General when the report is no longer required by the Prime Minister, or in the event that the Prime Minister ceases to hold office.  Proposed subsection 7(3) provides that the Director-General must make arrangements to ensure that reports, additional reports and all information obtained in the course of making inquiries under section 5 are held securely within ASIO and are only accessed by ASIO employees with specific written authorisation from the Director-General.

 

14.       Proposed subsection 7(2) further provides that the Director-General is responsible for ensuring that reports, additional reports and all information obtained in the course of making inquiries under section 5 are only used for the purposes of the Act.  This provision ensures that information collected by ASIO and reports made by the Director-General of Security relating to Ministers of State are solely used for informing the Prime Minister about security issues and not for other purposes. 

 

15.       Proposed subsection 7(2)  should also be read in conjunction with the safeguards contained in the ASIO Act, especially paragraph 20(b) which sets out the special responsibility of the Director-General to ensure that the work of ASIO “is kept free from any influences or considerations not relevant to its functions and nothing is done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned to further or protect the interests of any particular section of the community, or with any matters other than the discharge of its functions.”  It should also be noted that the work of the Director-General of Security and ASIO under the proposed provisions of this legislation will also be subject to the oversight role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security under the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986

 

Clause 8 - Reports prepared at the direction of a previous Prime Minister

 

16.       Proposed section 8 provides that the Director-General of Security must provide the Prime Minister with a report or additional report, which was prepared at the direction of a previous Prime Minister if the report or additional report is requested by the Prime Minister; and the report or additional report concerns a currently serving Minister.  This provision covers the circumstance in which a new Prime Minister takes office while other Ministers continue to serve in their portfolios.  The Prime Minister will be able to access reports prepared at the direction of the previous Prime Minister relating to those Ministers continuing to hold their offices.  The Prime Minister will then be able to direct the Director-General to prepare additional reports if that was considered necessary. 

 

 



 

 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Ministers of State (Checks for Security Purposes) Bill 2019

 

This Bill is compatible with human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

 

The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the Prime Minister is fully informed of any security issues relating to Ministers of State.  To achieve this the Bill creates an obligation for the Prime Minister to direct the Director-General of Security to provide a report on any security matters arising from examination of the personal background and circumstances of Ministers of State. 

 

 

Human rights implications

 

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms as it deals with personal security issues within the executive government.  Ministers will be obliged to provide the Director-General of Security any information requested by the Director-General or an authorised ASIO employee for the purposes of preparing a report for the Prime Minister.  This measure will involve an imposition on the privacy of Ministers of State as a consequence of their duties and access to sensitive and security classified information but does not raise any significant human rights issues.   

 

Conclusion

 

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

 

Senator Patrick