Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014; Second Reading
Before question time in this second reading contribution I was making the point that the life span of too many sunset clauses in security legislation has been too long and that it is simply not possible to predict the nature and extent of terrorist threats over a 10-year period, which some of those sunset clauses were. Giving future sunset clauses around a three-year life span is much more appropriate to meet the immediate threats to national security and to give a new parliament with a fresh perspective the opportunity to reconsider their necessity. I acknowledge that the government has accepted the PJCIS recommendations for substantially reduced time frames on sunset clauses for controversial provisions in this bill and the decision by the government in response to the work of the PJCIS I say is a good one. A mandatory review by the PJCIS assisted by the legislation monitor review should be conducted before expiry of a sunset clause provision. The committee should undertake a comprehensive review of the terms and operations of the legislation and gather information from stakeholder agencies as well as take public submissions and make considered recommendations to the parliament.
Not only has oversight of the intelligence agencies, in my view, failed to keep pace with their burgeoning role and powers but it has been decades since the effectiveness and adequacy of the oversight framework has been critically examined. It is time to satisfy the Australian community, the parliament and the agencies themselves that we have got this right. The time has come for a thorough review of the current arrangements for oversight of Australian intelligence agencies. I believe that such an inquiry should encompass the role, powers and scope of existing oversight mechanisms and consider the adequacy of the legislative framework which governs oversight, the degree to which it is coordinated and comprehensive and whether the resources allocated to such bodies are adequate.
Enhanced power requires enhanced accountability. The greater potential for that power to infringe on individual liberties, the greater the need for accountability in the exercise of that power. This is not to suggest that our security and intelligence agencies are acting perniciously or misusing their powers but in the relatively recent past those powers were used inappropriately with consequent erosion of public trust.
Not only has oversight of the intelligence agencies failed to keep pace with their burgeoning role and powers but it has been decades since the effectiveness and adequacy of the oversight framework has been critically examined. In my view, and I hope this is a view shared around the parliament, it is time to satisfy the Australian community, to satisfy the parliament and to satisfy the agencies themselves that we have got this right. I commend this approach to the Senate.