Intelligence Committee supports passage of National Security Bill

THE Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has presented its Advisory Report on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Comprehensive Review and Other Measures No. 2) Bill 2023.

The Bill seeks to implement ten recommendations of the 2020 Comprehensive Review of the Legal Framework of the National Intelligence Community (known as the Richardson Review), and also makes two amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The committee recommended that the Bill be passed, subject to the implementation of one committee recommendation, about clarifying the availability to ASIO officers of defences for certain national infrastructure related offences.

The committee received both public and classified evidence related to the proposed amendments to 13 Commonwealth Acts in the Bill, and found that all were reasonable and justified.

The amendments related to Richardson Review recommendations had been developed in line with that review’s findings and give effect to the reforms and efficiencies envisaged by those changes.

Committee Chair Peter Khalil MP said, "The committee supports improvements that allow the National Intelligence Community to undertake its important work without the encumbrances of outdated legislation or without the defences and exemptions necessary to protect their information, critical functions and capabilities.

"The Bill also considers principles delivered by Justice Hope 40 years ago, outlined in the review which highlight the importance of agencies being held accountable, operating in accordance with the law, with respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms, whilst remaining politically impartial," Mr Khalil said.

The two amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 were considered by the committee and were supported in the committee’s majority report. These relate to the composition and quorum of the PJCIS; and to the requirements of ministerial directions given to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

Mr Khalil said, "The amendments to the composition of the PJCIS will allow for flexibility and an increased membership on the committee to engage in its important work.

"The amendments related to the most sensitive work of ASIS will require greater detail in ministerial directions, to ensure that appropriate ministerial oversight and accountability in relation to ASIS’ activities is maintained into the future."

Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.



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