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Changes to intelligence services legislation in respect of ASIS to help campaign against terrorism.



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MEDIA RELEASE

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA47 2 April 2004

CHANGES TO INTELLIGENCE SERVICES LEGISLATION IN RESPECT OF ASIS TO HELP CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM

I welcome the amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 passed by Parliament this week.

The changes to the Act will allow the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) to undertake its functions more effectively and to better protect its people.

In the ongoing campaign to defeat global terrorism and in other vital areas, intelligence is a crucial weapon. ASIS plays a critical role in obtaining intelligence in sometimes dangerous circumstances.

The changes to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 will allow ASIS to co-operate with agencies, both Australian and foreign, where the legitimate activities of those agencies might extend to the use of force. Effective co-operation between agencies is a key element in combating the threat posed by terrorism. The core function of ASIS remains foreign intelligence collection and ASIS will continue to conduct its activities in a non-violent way.

The changes will also enable ASIS staff members and agents to protect themselves including through the use of weapons in rare circumstances outside Australia for defensive purposes.

I have ensured these measures will be governed by a tight legislative accountability framework and with appropriate oversight mechanisms.

The changes are necessary given the increasingly dangerous environment in which ASIS must operate and in the context of the intelligence challenges we now face including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD has examined the changes to the Intelligence Services Act and tabled a unanimous and constructive report. The Government welcomed that report and the Committee’s recommendations are reflected in the Bill passed by Parliament.

Media inquiries: Andrew Park 02-6277 7500 / 0418 253 285