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Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Amendment Bill 1994

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House: Senate


Prime Minister and Cabinet


Royal Assent


To ensure that the Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security and his predecessors to give information and documents to the Royal Commission into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.


The office of Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security was established in accordance with a recommendation made in December 1984 by the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies conducted by Justice Robert Hope. 1 The functions of the Inspector- General include the scrutiny of the activities of the various intelligence and security agencies to monitor their compliance with the law and with standards of propriety. 2 Among other things, the Inspector- General can investigate complaints made by Australian citizens and residents in relation to the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), and can investigate the procedures of ASIO and ASIS for the redress of employee grievances. 3 The Inspector- General must provide an annual report to the Prime Minister which (after the Prime Minister has made any deletions considered necessary in the interests of security, defence, international relations, or privacy) must be tabled in Parliament. 4

Section 34(1) of the Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 (the IGIS Act) imposes confidentiality obligations on the Inspector- General, any former Inspector- General, and any present or former member of the Inspector- General's staff. Such persons cannot communicate any information acquired by reason of their position, except in the performance of their statutory functions or the exercise of their statutory powers. Section 34(5) exempts such persons from any obligation to produce documents or provide information to a court, tribunal, authority or person which has power to require production of documents or answering of questions.

A Royal Commission into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service was established by letters patent dated 15 March 1994. The Commissioners appointed to conduct the inquiry are the Hon. Gordon Samuels AC QC and Mr Michael Codd AC. Under its terms of reference, the Commission will inquire into the effectiveness and suitability of arrangements for:

- the control and accountability of ASIS;

- the organisation and management of ASIS;

- the protection of the intelligence sources and methods of ASIS; and

- the resolution of grievances and complaints relating to ASIS. 5

The Commission has been asked to report by 30 September 1994 if possible, or at the latest by 31 December 1994.

It is possible that the provisions of section 34 of the IGIS Act will prevent the current Inspector- General and his predecessors, as well as current and former staff of the Office, from giving information or documents to assist the Royal Commission into ASIS. Accordingly, the proposed Act will insert a new section into the IGIS Act to ensure that the Office of the Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security is able to co- operate fully with the Commission.

Main Provisions

Clause 3 of the proposed Act will insert a new section 34A into the IGIS Act. The new section will override any inconsistent provision elsewhere in the IGIS Act or in any other legislation: proposed s.34A(1).

Proposed s.34A(3) allows a current or former Inspector- General to give to the Commission information acquired through his or her office, or documents possessed or able to be accessed by reason of his or her office.

Proposed s.34A(4) and (5) allows a current or former staff member authorised in writing by the Inspector- General to do likewise.

Proposed s.34(6) enables any of the above persons to give information or documents to his or her legal adviser for a purpose related to the former's involvement or possible involvement in the Commission's inquiries.


1. See Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies, Report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, December 1984, pp.328- 335. The report was tabled in Parliament on 22 May 1985: see House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 22 May 1985, pp.2886 ff.

2. Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986, s.8.

3. Ibid., s.8(1),(2).

4. Ibid., s.35.

5. See Terms of Reference advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 19 March 1994, p.26.

Chris Horan

Bills Digest Service 23 March 1994

Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine

the subsequent official status of the Bill.

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1994.