House debates

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions without Notice

National Security

2:57 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney please update the House on how the Morrison government is working to ensure our world-class national security agencies have the tools they need to keep Australians safe and secure?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for the question and for his service to our country through the ADF. As the member knows, our government has no greater priority than keeping Australians safe, and our national intelligence community is absolutely essential in defending Australia's interests against threats to our sovereignty and our security and to further our national interest. On behalf of the government, I want to thank all of the men and women who work tirelessly to keep us safe in our intelligence community.

Proper resourcing of the intelligence community and furnishing the intelligence community with updated legislative tools has being a core focus of our government. Since 2013 we've introduced and passed 19 tranches of national security legislation to ensure that our various national intelligence community agencies are well equipped to meet current and future challenges, but, given the scale and the pace of change in the threat environment that we face, we have to be continually testing whether the legislation, the principles and the structure that underpin the intelligence community are all fit for purpose. That's why in May of 2018 the government commissioned Mr Dennis Richardson AC to conduct a comprehensive review of the legal framework governing the national intelligence community. That has been, and will be, the most significant review since the Hope royal commission in the 1970s and eighties.

I take this opportunity to inform the House that tomorrow the government will release the full unclassified version of that report, which goes to around 1,300 pages. For the further information of the House, I think I can fairly summarise that the essential conclusions of that critical work are that the key principles underpinning Australia's intelligence legislation are sound and of enduring relevance; that the legislation framework, when viewed as a whole, has been well maintained and is largely fit for purpose; and that, also importantly, the work of our agencies to keep us safe has been of extremely high quality and consistently undertaken within the proper limits of the law. Of course, in those 1,300 pages that we will release tomorrow there are also a range of suggestions for improvements, and some of them are very complex. Many of them relate particularly to telecommunications and surveillance devices, and I look forward to working with members opposite on reforms in that area. There is going to be a need for an ongoing evolution in Australia's security agencies, and I can also inform the House that tomorrow, as well releasing the 1,300 pages of the Richardson review, we will be providing at the same time detailed government responses to each recommendation to enable and inform debate going forward on these critical issues and the way in which reform will need to show an evolution in our national security agencies. I'm absolutely confident that this review will provide a sheet anchor for further reform in this very important area, and I look forward to cooperating with the opposition on those matters going forward.