Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Intelligence and Security Committee; Report

4:11 pm

Photo of David BushbyDavid Bushby (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the committee's report, Review of the listing of Islamic State East Asia as a terrorist organization under the Criminal Code, together with the committee's Annual report of committee activities 2016-17. I move:

That the Senate take note of the reports.

I'm pleased to present the committee's report on the listing of Islamic State East Asia as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code together with the committee's annual report for 2016-17. Turning first to Islamic State East Asia, this is the first time this group has been listed as a terrorist organisation. The Criminal Code enables the committee to review the listing of terrorist organisations and report its findings to the parliament within the 15-day disallowance period. Islamic State East Asia is comprised of a number of extremist organisations that publicly pledged allegiance to Islamic State in December 2015. Since merging, the group's members have conducted increasingly violent attacks in the Philippines that are similar to those conducted by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. This includes a large-scale attack in Marawi City in May 2017.

In conducting its review, the committee held a private hearing with ASIO and the Attorney-General's Department. The committee carefully reviewed the procedures followed by the government and the merits of the listings themselves. The committee was satisfied that appropriate processes had been followed and that Islamic State East Asia meets the relevant thresholds to be listed as a terrorist organisation. The committee therefore supports the listing and finds no reason to disallow the legislative instrument.

The second report I'm presenting today outlines the committee's activities for 2016-17. The national focus on counterterrorism measures continued throughout this year with further legislative reform. The committee maintained its bipartisan approach to reviewing proposed changes to Australia's national security legislation and completed inquiries into four bills referred by the Attorney-General. These bills included continuing detention for high-risk terrorist offenders and telecommunications sector security reforms. The committee made 39 recommendations to strengthen the bills and ensure that they included appropriate safeguards and oversight mechanisms. I note that the government accepted all of the committee's recommendations.

The committee also continued to fulfil its key statutory oversight responsibilities, including its annual review of the administration and expenditure of the six Australian intelligence agencies, as required by the Intelligence Services Act. The committee completed its review for the 2014-15 year and commenced its review for 2015-16. As in previous years, the committee looked closely at the impact of the efficiency dividend and other savings measures on agencies, and sought assurances that each agency continued to have the necessary resources to address Australia's national security priorities. The committee concluded that agencies were overseeing their administration and expenditure appropriately.

Briefly, I note that during this period the committee also conducted its third review of the AFP's performance of its functions under part 5.3 of the Criminal Code, and reviewed and supported the listing or relisting of 10 terrorist organisations. For the first time this year, the committee reviewed the declaration of a terrorist organisation under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 following the declaration of Islamic State on 4 May 2016. This means that a person aged 14 or older who is a national citizen of another country loses their Australian citizenship if they are a member of the Islamic State or act on the instruction of, or in cooperation with, Islamic State. Importantly, the committee commenced its statutory review of division 3 of part 3 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979—ASIO's questioning and detention powers—which is due to sunset in September 2018. The outcomes of this review will be reported on in next year's annual report.

There was further expansion of the committee's oversight responsibilities during the year. The Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 and Telecommunications and Other Legislation Bill 2016 were amended to include provisions requiring the committee to review the operation of the legislation within six years and three years, respectively.

In conclusion, the committee recognises that the recommendations of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review will, if accepted, have significant implications for the committee's ongoing oversight remit. The committee will closely monitor implementation of these arrangements and will work to ensure that they are as effective as possible. I commend the reports to the Senate.

Question agreed to.


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