Thursday, 17 August 2017
Australian Secret Intelligence Service
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Foreign Minister has denied Witness K, a former public servant and Australian citizen, an Australian passport,
(ii) the denial was made on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIS), a competent authority for the purpose of the Australian Passports Act 2005,
(iii) denying an Australian citizen a passport is a serious restriction of liberty, and must not be done lightly,
(iv) during Budget estimates, questions were put to the Attorney-General (representing the Foreign Minister) as to the appropriateness of ASIS being relied upon as a competent authority in the circumstances of the case – the Attorney-General took the question on notice,
(v) after consideration, the Government has advised that the questions put to the Attorney-General are properly questions for ASIS,
(vi) although there is no constraint prohibiting ASIS from appearing at estimates hearings, they do not normally do so, and
(vii) the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee has declined to invite ASIS to appear at the October 2017 supplementary Budget estimates hearings; and
(b) orders that the Australian Security Intelligence Service appear before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee at the October 2017 supplementary Budget estimates hearings.
In addition to the Minister for Foreign Affairs' day-to-day accountability for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ASIS, parliamentary oversight of ASIS is conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security under the Intelligence Services Act 2001. The joint committee reviews ASIS's administration and expenditure, as well as any matters referred to it by the responsible minister or through a resolution of either house of parliament. ASIS does not separately appear before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade legislation committee. This reflects the joint committee's role, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's investigation and review powers, and practical security related restrictions. The 2017 Independent Intelligence Review considered oversight arrangements and found they did not require fundamental change.
This relates to a fundamental issue that Witness K, a former ASIS officer, has been denied his ability to travel out of the country, notwithstanding that the reason for the denial related to a dispute between Australia and East Timor which now appears, if not on the verge of resolving, to have an alternative path to dispute resolution. I have asked questions in the estimates process in respect of this. I cannot get satisfactory answers, because ASIS is the responsible body. I note that the Director-General of ASIO has no issues with Witness K having a passport. This really is a very significant scandal in the fact that a citizen of this country has been denied the ability to travel overseas.