Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security; Report
On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the committee's advisory report on the Office of National Intelligence Bill 2018 and the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018.
Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).
by leave—I am pleased to present the committee's advisory report on the Office of National Intelligence Bill 2018 and the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018. These bills form a part of a government's response to the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review. The review's major recommendation was that Office of National Intelligence, ONI, be established in the Prime Minister's portfolio. The review has noted that ONI:
… would be headed by a Director-General who would be the Prime Minister’s principal adviser on matters relating to the national intelligence community. The Director-General would not be empowered to direct the specific activities of agencies, but should be able to direct the co-ordination of the national intelligence community to ensure there are appropriately integrated strategies across the suite of agency capabilities.
The bills continue the former Office of National Assessments, ONA, as ONI, with a revised mandate to lead the national intelligence community. The ONI bill further extends ONI's assessment and evaluation functions from that of the ONA, provides ONI with a specific, open-source collection function, and positions the Director-General as the head of the national intelligence community. The Director-General's responsibilities include keeping the Prime Minister informed on matters relating to the national intelligence community. The Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 repeals the Office of National Assessments Act 1977 and amends 18 other acts to reflect the proposed operation of ONI.
During its review of the bills, the committee examined how the proposed legislation reflected the recommendations from the Independent Intelligence Review. The committee also examined whether ONI was given adequate powers and functions to lead a better coordinated and more integrated intelligence community, and examined whether the bills impacted on the existing roles and statutory functions of the other Australian intelligence agencies. The committee received three submissions on the bills and held a public hearing on 16 August 2018 in Canberra. The committee made six recommendations in relation to the bills. The first, that the comprehensive review into the legal framework of the national intelligence community currently under way examine the consistency of the provisions across national intelligence community legislation which enable these agencies to cooperate with foreign authorities. The second, that the Director-General of the Office of National Intelligence be unable to delegate his or her powers to authorise ONI to engage with foreign partners. The third, to remove a secrecy offence from the bill, consistent with the committee's recent advisory report on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017. The fourth, that ONI's privacy rules are made public except to the extent those rules contain classified information. The fifth, that the Prime Minister consult with the Privacy Commissioner when making privacy rules for ONI, and the sixth and final recommendation, that, subject to implementation of these recommendations, the bill be passed.
I commend the report to the House.