THE HON MARK DREYFUS KC MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
SECOND READING SPEECH
INTELLIGENCE SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2023
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Of all the responsibilities of the Australian Parliament, none is more important than ensuring the security of our nation and its people.
Today we confront emerging and serious threats to our national security. The Director-General of Security has warned Australia is facing unprecedented challenges, describing the current security environment as ‘complex, challenging and changing’.
In such an environment, the Australian Parliament’s responsibility is clear. It must ensure our intelligence and security agencies have the necessary powers and resources to protect Australian citizens and Australian interests.
The Parliament has rightly entrusted our intelligence and security agencies with significant powers to counter these threats to our security. However, these powers can impinge on the values and freedoms on which our democracy is founded - values and freedoms which Australian citizens rightly expect Parliament to protect.
The task of the Parliament is to strike a balance between the protection of Australia’s essential security interests and the preservation of essential rights and freedoms. Key to achieving this balance is strong and effective safeguards and oversight.
Public trust and confidence in our security and intelligence agencies can only be assured through rigorous and effective oversight and—to the extent possible—public accountability. The greater the potential for coercive or intrusive powers to infringe on individual liberties, the greater the need for accountability in the exercise of those powers.
This is not to suggest our security and intelligence agencies are misusing their powers or acting improperly. I do not believe that to be the case.
However, enhanced powers demand enhanced accountability. Strong and effective oversight mechanisms do not stand in opposition to Australia's national security interests—they are best understood as an essential part of advancing them.
The current security environment has led to increased collaboration and engagement with agencies across government. The six intelligence and security agencies are the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Intelligence.
To counter security threats, these agencies are increasingly partnering with an additional four agencies: the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the Intelligence Division of the Department of Home Affairs. Collectively, these ten agencies comprise the National Intelligence Community and each has important functions to protect Australian citizens and Australian interests.
However, the oversight and accountability framework for the National Intelligence Community is not uniform, nor has it been reformed since the formation of the Community.
The current framework
Under existing legislation, oversight of Australia’s six intelligence and security agencies is provided by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.
These three bodies perform different—but complementary—roles to provide the public with assurance that the extraordinary powers entrusted to these agencies are appropriately used and remain necessary.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is Australia’s dedicated intelligence oversight body, providing independent assurance to Parliament and the public that the agencies within its jurisdiction act lawfully, with propriety and consistently with human rights.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security also plays a critical role in overseeing Australia’s intelligence agencies and scrutinising national security legislation to ensure it is necessary, proportionate and effective. The Committee also has important statutory functions to review the administration and expenditure of the agencies within its jurisdiction.
Lastly, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor reviews the operation, effectiveness and implications of national security and counter terrorism laws; and considers whether the laws contain appropriate protections for individual rights, remain proportionate to national security threats, and remain necessary.
The Bill amends the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986, the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and other Commonwealth legislation to expand the jurisdictions of the Inspector General and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to oversee the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the intelligence functions of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs.
The expansion of the jurisdiction of these two bodies will provide holistic oversight of the ten agencies that comprise the National Intelligence Community.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security currently reviews proposed counter-terrorism and national security legislation as a matter of practice. The Committee provides an important accountability mechanism in ensuring that counter-terrorism and national security legislation is fit for purpose.
To this end, the Bill includes amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 to provide that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review proposed reforms to counter terrorism and national security legislation, and all such expiring legislation, on its own motion. The amendments in this Bill would ensure that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security can provide appropriate scrutiny in this complex and constantly evolving intelligence environment.
The Bill also strengthens the relationship between the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. The Bill provides that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may request the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security conduct an inquiry into matters within the Inspector-General’s jurisdiction. This will ensure that areas of concern identified by the Committee can be brought to the Inspector General’s attention as appropriate.
The Bill also provides that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may request a briefing from the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. Similarly, the Bill requires the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Director-General of the Office of National Intelligence to provide regular briefings to the Committee. These measures will enhance the Committee’s oversight role and provide it with necessary and relevant information to support its work.
It is the responsibility of Parliament, on behalf of the people, to balance individual liberty and national security. If the public are to have confidence that an appropriate balance has been struck and that the enhanced powers and capabilities of our intelligence and security agencies are being used only for the purposes for which they were granted, current accountability arrangements must be improved.
Strong and effective oversight mechanisms are an essential part of advancing and protecting Australia’s national security interests, providing assurance of intrusive and covert activities, and ensuring public confidence in, and social license for, Australia’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Oversight makes agencies better.
Oversight is an essential part of advancing our national security interests.
Oversight ensures agencies are accountable and that the public can have confidence in their activities and that their powers remain reasonable and proportionate.
I commend the Bill to the House.