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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 12872

Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (10:26): I thank the chair for his remarks and endorse his remarks about the way in which the committee has been served. This report is really a report of the activities of the committee after an election. Mention has been made of the way in which our inquiries have been constrained as a result of amendments to the committee structure and membership, as well as the fact that some inquiries were not able to be initiated within the time frame that the legislation provides.

I want to make my observations in relation to the functions of the committee, and mention has been made that this committee has an oversight of intelligence organisations. They include ASIO, ASIS, DSD, DIGO, DIO and ONA. It was mentioned in the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Report on the Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 8 in relation to intelligence agencies, which was tabled on 21 June, that this committee ought to have additional oversight of another organisation that participates jointly with intelligence agencies in the implementation of security operations—that is, the Australian Federal Police and its counter-terrorism elements in particular.

The committee recommended previously that the Intelligence Services Act 2001 be amended to include the AFP counter-terrorism elements in the list of organisations that the committee reviews. I am strongly of the view that this is the only committee of the parliament that could appropriately undertake those inquiries. I note we follow on the reporting by another group of our colleagues who deal with the supervision of law enforcement. I do not think that the intelligence functions fall within the normal law enforcement functions. I do not think the committee has the breadth of knowledge of intelligence matters to be able to make the appropriate inquiries if it was to look at those matters—nor do I think it is appropriate that there should be a duplication of committee inquiries in relation to the security function. I think there is only one committee—that is, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security—that is able to deal with these issues. It is regrettable that the government has rejected that recommendation. It says in its response that this is to avoid duplication with existing and extensive oversight mechanisms and to avoid placing additional burden on the AFP requiring extra resources to meet the PJCIS oversight requirements.

I would say that this is an organisation that does not want adequate review of these functions. These are not matters without contest. There was an inquiry undertaken by His Honour Justice Street, former Chief Justice of New South Wales, to look at this very issue of the way in which the AFP should function with the intelligence organisations. It seems to me that the government has been willing to accept observations from those who wish to avoid full and complete scrutiny of its activities by accepting their view that this would require extensive additional oversight that they would have to deal with. In my judgment, many agencies have to respond to a multiplicity of parliamentary committees. This would only be in relation to intelligence and security related matters in counterterrorism inquiries. I think the government should reconsider the view it has taken on this matter. I put that very strongly and I will continue to put it at every opportunity.