Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010

In Committee

12:21 pm

Photo of Scott LudlamScott Ludlam (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

It is a great shame. I move Australian Greens amendment (1) on sheet 7032:

(1)    Schedule 6, page 29 (after line 5), after item 17, insert:

17A  Before paragraph 94(1A)(a)

Insert:

           (aa)    the total number of requests made under paragraph 19A(2)(b) to the Organisation during the year for co-operation and assistance under section 19A; and

           (ab)    the name of each body which made a request under paragraph 19A(2)(b) during the year; and

           (ac)    a summary of the purpose or purposes for which each request under paragraph 19A(2)(b) during the year was made; and

I do not know that I need to speak to this amendment at great length, apart from to note that I can entirely understand why the minister, who is here representing the executive, would be opposed to an amendment like this, but I am dumbfounded at the rest of the senators denying the parliament access to this information—in redacted form. We are not asking for national security sensitive information to be put into the public domain. I am dumbfounded that a whole heap of senators are about to file in here and vote against their having access to this information on behalf of the people who elected us. I find that extraordinary. I understand why the executive does it, although I strongly disagree with it; I do not understand what is about to happen. A number of senators are about to file in here and vote against allowing themselves access to this information. While perhaps the bill will not expand the legally defined mandate of ASIO, I think it will greatly expand its operations well outside the area for which it was established. This is something that we will regret the next time we come to an amendment to the T(IA) Act or the ASIO Act.

All of this is in the absence of the independent national security legislation monitor who was spoken of years ago. I think this place passed enabling legislation to get that office on its feet a year ago and that office still does not exist. Every Senate estimates I turn up and ask whether that office exists yet and it does not. So we are working in a vacuum against a backdrop of the continued creeping expansion of the powers of clandestine security and intelligence agencies, and it is the role and the purpose of this Senate to set some limits on those agencies. This is quite a strong example. The coalition did not bother even asking a single question of the minister on the way through this whole debate. It has been left to the Australian Greens to do it and now we are about to vote to deny ourselves access to that information, which I think is shameful. I thank the minister for the answers provided. I thank the officers from the Attorney’s office who have come to try and help enlighten us a little bit through this murky debate and I strongly commend this amendment to the Senate.

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