Thursday, 26 March 2015
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee
Senator Wang, the government does not support your amendment, and there is a very simple reason why. I understand the sentiment behind the amendment, and indeed I share a lot of that sentiment, but one must always bear in mind that what we are talking about here is investigations, and what you particularly have in mind with your amendment are investigations conducted by the national security agency.
It has never been the practice for ASIO to advise people who may have been the subject of investigations that were concluded without any adverse finding or assessment of them but those investigations had been in being. There is a very important practical reason for that. At the time the investigation is being undertaken, those who carry out the investigation cannot know where the investigation will lead. An investigation is not undertaken for no reason; an investigation is undertaken because the relevant officers are of the view that there is something to be investigated—a matter of security concern, in this case. But they cannot know what conclusions or outcomes their investigation might disclose and therefore, in carrying out the investigation, it would put them in an impossible position to be unaware of whether or not, in the event that the investigation was resolved without any adverse finding against a person, their investigative steps and conclusions may nevertheless be communicated to the person.
I have worked with ASIO as their minister for long enough to know that the nature of the investigations they undertake are very complex; the fact that an investigation may involve one individual and one particular line of inquiry may bear directly upon another individual and raise more serious issues in relation to that other individual. It would be an unreasonable constraint upon officers carrying out an investigation if they were not to know whether or not the facts found in the investigation might subsequently be publicly, or privately for that matter, disclosed.