Australia's deteriorating security environment leads to surge in PJCIS workload
AUSTRALIA'S rapidly deteriorating security environment, which is characterised by unprecedented levels of foreign interference, cyber attacks and terrorism, has led to a record high workload for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in the 46th Parliament,according to the Chair of the Committee, Senator James Paterson
He said throughout the term, the PJCIS tabled 38 reports, including 23 tabled in the past 12 months alone. This is equal only to the workload of the 45th Parliament, and far exceeds the 22 reports tabled in the 44th Parliament and the ten reports in the 43rd Parliament.
"Given this workload, the committee reiterates its recommendation in its Annual Report 2020-21 that the parts of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 which govern the work of the committee should be referred to the PJCIS at the commencement of the 47th Parliament," Senator Patterson said.
Of note the committee recommended passage of:
- the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 establishing three new warrants that give law enforcement agencies effective powers to enable swift and decisive action against the rising challenge of serious online crime;
- the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Bill 2022 which establishes critical tools that will bring together government and industry to strengthen defences against significant threats from nation state adversaries and criminal actors;
- the Intelligence Oversight and Other Legislation Amendment (Integrity Measures) Bill 2020 ensuring that vital oversight and scrutiny keeps pace with new intelligence service capabilities to retain public confidence and ensure scarce resources are most effectively targeted to the most serious risks; and
- securing the listings of both Hamas and Hezbollah, in their entirety, as terrorist organisations.
In addition, the committee’s ground-breaking Inquiry into national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector report made 27 bipartisan, unanimous recommendations to address the serious threats posed by foreign interference to our most critical research institutions.
The Inquiry into Extremist Movements and Radicalism in Australia remains ongoing, with the committee presenting an interim report recommending the PJCIS of the 47th Parliament conclude this important work.
An inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Corrective Services Authorities) Bill 2022 – referred to the PJCIS on 21 February 2022 – will commence in the 47th Parliament, if the government chooses to progress it, as will the Review of the Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill 2020.
The committee’s Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 20 (2020–21) – Australian Intelligence Agencies and Statutory Reviews of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 and of the Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Act 2019 have commenced and will be finalised by the newly appointed Committee in the 47th Parliament.
The committee has agreed to launch a review of the listing of the eight terrorist organisations, including Hamas and the National Socialist Order, for consideration by the PJCIS of the 47th Parliament.
Senator Paterson said the PJCIS would continue to experience a heavy workload as threats to the nation escalate.
"The most important task of the PJCIS is to help keep Australia safe and free," he said. "With foreign interference, cyber threats and terrorism at their highest levels yet, this task has never been more important.
"Our strategic environment is experiencing the most consequential realignment since the Second World War and we need to ensure security agencies have the right tools to protect our nation, and the right oversight mechanisms to ensure they retain public confidence for their important work.
"I thank all members of the committee for their tireless commitment to this task over the 46th Parliament," Senator Paterson said.
Further information on the review as well as a copies of the reports mentioned above, can be obtained from the Committee’s website.