Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010
With respect to the Greens amendment, it is the government’s view that the ASIO Act already requires ASIO to report on the activities of the organisation during the year. This would clearly encompass ASIO’s activities under the new cooperation and assistance provisions in section 19A. The level of detail proposed in the Greens amendment would get into operational details which would not be appropriate for inclusion in the unclassified annual report. It would be open to the Attorney-General to issue a direction to ASIO requiring ASIO to report to the Attorney on requests made under the new cooperation and assistance provisions. In light of all the existing reporting mechanisms, safeguards and oversight mechanisms, a specific reporting requirement of the nature suggested by the Greens is not warranted.
Details such as the names of organisations requesting assistance and the purpose would reveal operational details about the activities, practices and methods of intelligence agencies. The existing requirement for ASIO to report on its activities will enable ASIO to provide a general level of detail on cooperation and assistance without disclosing sensitive operational details. Additionally, consistent with the current practice, ASIO will also keep the Attorney-General informed of its activities on a regular basis. The ASIO Act also requires the Director-General of ASIO to regularly consult with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him or her informed of matters relating to security. Finally, with respect to the national security intelligence monitor, this is an important appointment that requires close consideration of candidates, and the Prime Minister is doing this as we stand.
That the amendment (Senator Ludlam’s) be agreed to.