House debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018; Report from Committee

12:27 pm

Photo of Andrew HastieAndrew Hastie (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the committee's report entitled Advisory report on the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

by leave—I am pleased to present the committee's report entitled Advisory Report on the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018.

This bill will improve and modernise the legislative framework that governs the use of force by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) to address key operational challenges and issues.

The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Families and Social Services, on 29 November 2018.

On 29 November 2018, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, referred the bill to the committee for inquiry and report

The bill makes two main amendments.

First it will enable the minister to specify additional persons outside Australia who may be protected by an ASIS staff member or agent.

Second, it provides that an ASIS staff member or agent performing specified activities outside Australia will be able to use reasonable and necessary force in the performance of an ASIS function.

In this report the committee notes the extensive consultation process that ASIS undertook with the IGIS in the drafting of the bill.

In judging the legitimacy, reasonableness and transparency—including appropriate oversight—of the bill the committee has had regard to the:

•   comprehensive consultation and decision-making process that must be undertaken by the minister before authorising the use of these powers,

•   guidelines surrounding the use of these powers, and

•   oversight provided by referral of these guidelines to the IGIS and this committee.

The committee notes that the oversight requirements in the bill replicate existing oversight requirements and provide an appropriate level of transparency recognising the necessary sensitivities of ASIS activities and operations.

The committee is satisfied with the provisions contained in the bill and recommends that the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018 be passed.

May I commend the Director-General of ASIS, Mr Paul Symon, for his engagement with both sides of the committee—coalition and Labor members. We appreciate the time he took to explain this to us. I commend this report to the House.

12:30 pm

Photo of Anthony ByrneAnthony Byrne (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd just like to second the comments that were made by the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security with respect to the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018. I think that now what the Australian people should know, and what this parliament should understand, is that this legislation clearly is needed by the security agency in question, which is ASIS, to keep Australians safe, to allow it to discharge its duties. Often in this committee, with the subject matter that we talk about, we're very constrained in what we can say, but I can assure the Australian public that, on an ongoing basis through this committee process, these sorts of legislation—and this report that we're looking at and the legislation which will go through this House—are subjected to intense scrutiny. A bill like this is subjected to the sort of scrutiny and consultation that may not be seen in other parliaments.

I'd like to commend in particular the chair of the committee, the member for Canning, not just for the work that he's done with this Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018 and this committee process but for his chairship during the entire parliamentary term. I say this in the context of some discussion in the media about bipartisanship. Bipartisanship is not easy. Bipartisanship is hard. It's easy take the low road. It's easy to take the easy pathway out, to point a finger at one side and make accusations about one person being, say, 'weak on terrorism' or, it might be, about another person being 'weak on security'.

The parliament and the Australian people should know that this bipartisan committee, which has looked at something like 18 or 19 pieces of legislation, is almost unique in the Western world for the outcomes that it has delivered to the people in keeping the Australian community safe, plus the safeguards that have been built into this legislation. I look at the United States of America, where they have a dysfunctional oversight system, where they have chairs off briefing the President of the United States, or disunity. What you can see with respect to disunity is that you have the enemy that seeks to exploit that disunity. So, when people ask, 'Why are you bipartisan on this committee?' the answer is that it's because we put the national interest first. When we look at security, when we look at legislation that's brought before this parliament, we do so in the national interest, and it's only by looking at national security in a bipartisan way that we can give it its full just measure, its full consideration.

As I said, it is easy to be partisan in this place, and it's easy to get the media headlines when you're not bipartisan. It's hard to be bipartisan in this place, but that's what this country's craving. It wants bipartisanship; it wants a way forward; it wants people working together in the national interest; and this committee gives that to it.