House debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021


National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other Measures No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading

10:13 am

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In December 2020, the government released its response to the most significant review of intelligence legislation since the Hope royal commissions of the 1970s and 1980s—the Comprehensive Review of the Legal Framework of the National Intelligence Community (the comprehensive review) led by Mr Dennis Richardson AC.

The comprehensive review found that the national intelligence community's legislative framework has been well maintained and is largely fit for purpose. However, the comprehensive review also recognised the need for a number of targeted reforms to ensure our intelligence agencies can continue to protect the safety and security of the Australian public, while recognising that their extraordinary powers require extensive oversight.

Today, I am introducing the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other Measures No. 1) Bill 2021. This bill is a significant piece of legislation implementing the government's response to the comprehensive review.

It also contains key reforms recommended by the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review led by Mr Michael L'Estrange AO and Mr Stephen Merchant PSM, and addresses other operational issues facing Australia's intelligence agencies.

A government has no higher duty than the protection of its citizens. The Morrison government has always and will always give our national security agencies the powers and the resources they need to keep Australians safe from harm. The threats may change but our resolve does not.

This bill will strengthen the ability of our intelligence agencies to respond to emerging threats and the increasingly sophisticated capabilities of our adversaries. It contains measures that allow agencies to respond expeditiously, and with greater agility, to threats and opportunities as they arise.

This will ensure our agencies are able to do their jobs effectively, using the full suite of tools and technologies available to them. The bill also ensures that agencies remain subject to robust oversight and accountability mechanisms, including ministerial oversight and requirements for reporting to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

The bill is the latest in a series of bills that will implement the recommendations of the comprehensive review.

Overview of bill

The bill consists of 14 schedules and makes a broad range of amendments across the statute book, including to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Intelligence Services Act 2001, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986, and the Australian Passports Act 2005.

The measures in this bill will address situations where agencies have the operational capability to respond to threats, but are prevented from doing so by legislation that has not kept pace with the evolving threat environment. The bill does this by addressing four key issues:

First, improving the workability of the ministerial authorisation framework for the activities of the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). This includes new emergency authorisation provisions that would allow these agencies to act immediately to assist Australians that are at imminent risk overseas—for example, where an Australian person was involved in a hostage situation or an ongoing terrorist or mass casualty attack. In these circumstances time is of the essence, and it is reasonable for Australians to expect the government to do everything in its power to assist them. The ability for our agencies to act quickly in such situations may determine the difference between life and death.

The bill also introduces a counter-terrorism class ministerial authorisation to allow ASIS, ASD and AGO to expeditiously produce intelligence on one or more members of a class of Australian persons who are, or are likely to be, involved with a proscribed terrorist organisation.

Second, the bill will strengthen cooperation arrangements for our intelligence agencies. These changes include extending section 13B of the Intelligence Services Act to ASIS's onshore activities, thereby allowing ASIS to cooperate with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) both inside and outside Australia, subject to appropriate safeguards and oversight.

The bill also introduces a number of provisions to clarify how AGO, ASD and ASIS may cooperate with authorities of other countries.

Third, the bill will enhance and support existing intelligence agency powers.This includes increasing the time for which the minister can order the suspension or temporary surrender of a person's Australian or foreign travel documents from 14 days to 28 days to allow ASIO the time it needs to complete a thorough threat assessment.

Other amendments being made to support our agencies include adding ASD into the Assumed Identities regime in the Crimes Act 1914, providing them with the ability to operate and use an assumed identity. The bill clarifies how persons can be approved to exercise authority under ASIO warrants, including new record-keeping requirements. The bill also extends existing immunity provisions provided to staff members and agents of ASIS and AGO for computer related offences in the Criminal Code for acts done outside Australia in the proper performance of those agencies' functions, to acts which inadvertently affect a computer or device located inside Australia.

Finally, the bill will improve the transparency of agencies' privacy protections for Australians. This will include introducing a new legislated requirement that ASIS, AGO, ASD and the Defence Intelligence Organisation publish their privacy rules on their websites, clarifying the scope of ONI's privacy rules, and establishing a new role for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security by requiring it to review the privacy rules of those agencies.


The measures I have outlined in the bill are designed to address or mitigate critical operational challenges faced by the National Intelligence Community. The bill implements the government response to thirteen comprehensive review recommendations, including four measures that both the comprehensive review and the 2017 independent intelligence review recommended.

It reflects the government's commitment to the continual improvement of Australia's robust national security laws, to ensure that Australians are kept safe and our way of life is protected.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.