Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security; Report

5:12 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 three reports of the committee as listed at item 15 on today's Order of Business and move:

That the Senate take note of the reports.

Two of the reports presented today cover the committee's statutory reviews of four key pieces of counterterrorism legislation. The first report I presented relates to the declared-area provisions of the Criminal Code, which were first enacted by the foreign fighters bill in November 2014. The provisions make it an offence for a person to enter or remain in certain areas in foreign countries that have been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and where a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in hostilities. Two areas have been declared under the laws to date: the al-Raqqa province in Syria, for which a declaration was revoked in November, and the Mosul district in Iraq, which has been recently renewed. The committee concluded that the provisions remain necessary at this time and has recommended that they be continued for a further period of three years with an additional committee review prior to the new sunset date. The committee has also recommended amendments to the laws to clarify the existing exception relating to humanitarian aid; to increase transparency in relation to the range of non-legislative factors that are considered by the minister in determining which areas are to be declared; to provide the minister with an ability to revoke a declaration at any time; to take into account advice from security agencies; and to empower the committee to review and report back to the parliament on a declaration at its discretion at any time.

Turning now to the second report, Review of police stop, search and seizure powers, the control order regime and the preventative detention order regime, the committee has similarly concluded that each power remains necessary and has recommended their continuation for a further three years, again with an additional committee review prior to the new sunset date. In relation to the stop, search and seizure powers available to police under the Crimes Act, the committee has recommended increased reporting requirements and an ongoing oversight role for the committee. In relation to the control order regime, the committee has recommended amendments to provide greater clarity in relation to confirmation proceedings, to enable interim control orders to be amended on application, and to provide for extended supervision orders to be issued as an alternative to continuing detention orders.

The committee has also recommended that the government extend to seven days the minimum time period between an interim and a confirmation hearing for a control order, subject to legal advice regarding any constitutional concerns arising from this extension. Finally, in relation to the preventative detention order regime, the committee has recommended that the Australian Federal Police be required to notify the committee as soon as practicable after an order is made, and to brief the committee if requested.

For each of its reviews, the committee was greatly assisted by the work of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Dr James Renwick SC, who produced his own reports on each of the laws in time to be taken into account by the committee. The committee has supported the INSLM's recommendations in a number of instances. The committee thanks the INSLM and all of the other participants in the review for their contributions.

Turning to the committee's third report, the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 is one component in the establishment of the Home Affairs portfolio that commenced on 20 December 2017. The bill as currently before parliament will amend four existing acts to deal with several specific matters that could not be dealt with administratively. These acts are the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 and, finally, the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The amendments proposed in the bill are intended to give effect to the allocation of ministerial powers, including a heightened and strengthened role for the Attorney-General, as announced by the Prime Minister in July 2017. The committee has concluded that the bill be passed, subject to implementation of the committee's recommendations that the bill be amended so that only the Prime Minister has the power to direct the Inspector-General to undertake an inquiry under section 9 of the IGIS Act and that references in the INSLM Act and the IGIS Act to 'the minister' be replaced with 'Attorney-General' to more clearly reflect the government's intent. Finally, the committee recommended that amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act to facilitate the Attorney-General's ongoing role be introduced to the parliament prior to the conclusion of debate on this bill.

In conclusion, I note that the committee is currently undertaking a further inquiry into proposed government amendments to this bill. I commend the reports to the Senate.

5:17 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wish to briefly make some remarks about this same report. I thank Senator Bushby for his reflection of the committee's views in that report, and I don't intend to reprosecute the case that he has made for some of those amendments and changes.

I do wish to briefly highlight the significance of the sunset provisions, as recommended in relation to the two bills that deal expressly with powers to address terrorism. The threat of terrorism to Australian citizens remains, which is most serious, and it's appropriate that we have continuing laws that allow us to address this. However, when these laws were enacted, they were done so on the understanding that it was an extraordinary level of risk and that extraordinary measures ought to be put in place. It was acknowledged that they do in fact burden some of the ordinary protections that would ordinarily be in place in our criminal law, and to that end sunset provisions were included so that these bills would be under constant review. In making these recommendations, the committee has recommended that a sunset provision remain in place. This will allow the PJCIS to reconsider the need for this legislation, and whether it remains in an appropriate form within a specified period of time. These are important qualifications in relation to these laws, which are acknowledged to be extraordinary and exist only because of the seriousness of the threat that we are currently facing. Thank you.

5:19 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I would note that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is one of those that does not have a crossbench member on it, which, as I said many years ago about some of its predecessors, is always a shame but, nonetheless, that's the way it is. I would like some time to study these reports and I would like to have them remain on the Notice Paper, so I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.