Frequently Asked Questions


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Role and work of IGIS

What is the role of IGIS?

The role of the IGIS is to assist Ministers in the oversight and review of the legality and propriety of the activities of the Australian intelligence agencies, and to ensure these activities are conducted in a way that is consistent with human rights. In performing this role the IGIS has extensive powers that can be used to obtain information and documents. The IGIS also takes complaints about the actions of Australian intelligence and security agencies.

What agencies does the IGIS oversee?

The IGIS oversees the six Australian intelligence agencies. These agencies are collectively known as the Australian Intelligence Community (the AIC).

The Office of National Assessments (ONA) produces all-source assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments to the Prime Minister, members of the National Security Committee of Cabinet, and senior officials of government departments. ONA also has responsibility for coordinating and evaluating Australia's foreign intelligence activities.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is Australia's national security service. ASIO is responsible for the protection of Australia, its people, and its interests from threats to security, whether directed from, or committed within, Australia or overseas.

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) is Australia’s overseas secret human intelligence collection agency. Its mission is to protect and promote Australia’s vital interests through the provision of unique foreign intelligence services as directed by Government.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD, also known as the Australian Signals Directorate, or ASD) is responsible for the collection, analysis and distribution of foreign signals intelligence. It is also the national authority on communications and computer security.

The Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) is an intelligence assessment agency that supports Defence and Government decision-making and assists with the planning and conduct of Australian Defence Force operations.

The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) is the government’s lead geospatial and imagery intelligence organisation. Its purpose is to provide geospatial intelligence from imagery and other sources, in support of Australia’s defence and national interests.

How does the IGIS ensure that Australian intelligence agencies act legally and with propriety?

The IGIS conducts regular inspections of the operational activities of ASIO, ASIS, ONA, ASD, AGO and DIO. The IGIS can also conduct inquiries and handle complaints. The purpose of these activities is to provide assurance that each intelligence agency acts legally and with propriety, complies with ministerial guidelines and directives, and respects human rights.

Inspections

IGIS staff have full access to information held by Australian intelligence and security agencies. IGIS staff undertake regular inspections of a range of operational activities. Inspections may look at a sample of operations or may be targeted at a particular issue. Inspections are focused on activities that present a legality, propriety or human rights risk. Inspections enable the IGIS to identify issues or concerns before they develop into systemic problems that could require major remedial action. Activities include:

  • monitoring agency compliance with relevant legislation
  • reviewing documents that support ASIO’s requests for special powers warrants
  • reviewing the basis for ASIO’S investigative activities
  • sampling ASIO’s access to and use of sensitive data
  • reviewing ministerial authorisations issued to ASIS, AGO and ASD by their respective ministers
  • reviewing the application of privacy rules and guidelines (which concern the retention and passage of information about Australian persons) by ASIS, ONA, ASD, DIO and AGO
  • reviewing ASIS operational files
  • reviewing ASIS’s application of relevant weapons guidelines and approval processes for their personnel

The inspection program has a positive effect on the culture and performance of the AIC agencies.

Handling complaints

Members of the public and current and former employees of intelligence agencies can make complaints to the IGIS about the activities of any of the six Australian intelligence agencies (ASIS, ASIO, ONA, ASD, AGO and DIO).

In many cases these complaints can be resolved quite quickly by the IGIS office speaking to the relevant agency or looking at their records. Where appropriate the IGIS can initiate an inquiry into a complaint, this allows the IGIS to alert Ministers to the issue and to use the full range of powers in the IGIS Act. The IGIS seeks to provide as much information to complainants as possible, however because of the nature of the information it is often not possible to provide all the information a complainant may want. In particular the IGIS will not confirm if a person is or is not a target of surveillance and can only provide limited information about visa security assessments.

Conducting inquiries

The IGIS may conduct a formal inquiry into a matter arising from a complaint, of the IGIS’s own initiative, or in response to a ministerial request. During inquiries, the IGIS Act provides for the use of strong coercive powers, similar to those of a Royal Commission, as well as giving certain immunities and protections. These powers include the power to compel the production of information and documents, to enter premises occupied or used by a Commonwealth agency, to issue notices to persons to attend before the IGIS to answer questions relevant to the inquiry, and to administer an oath or affirmation when taking such evidence.

When the IGIS uses these coercive powers, the IGIS Act provides protections to a person who gives the IGIS information. That is, the person will not be subject to any penalty for giving information to the IGIS where the IGIS has required them to do so. Inquiries are conducted in private, in accordance with the IGIS Act. They usually involve examination of highly classified or sensitive information.

Who is an 'Australian person' and why is it important?

An Australian person is someone who is an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident of Australia.

The distinction is important, because Australia’s foreign intelligence collection agencies – ASD, AGO and ASIS – must not conduct an activity to produce intelligence on an Australian person, except in particular circumstances and only when authorised by the relevant Minister.

Because of the limitation of intelligence activities on Australian persons the IGIS examines the records of intelligence agencies to ensure no agency illegally collects, or reports on, anyone who might be an Australian person.

What information can the IGIS access?

During routine inspection and review activities

The IGIS has full access to all of the records of the six Australian intelligence agencies (ASIS, ASIO, ASD, AGO, DIO and ONA). These agencies routinely provide IGIS staff with access to requested records for the purposes of inspections and reviews undertaken by the office, or in response to complaints to the IGIS from members of the public.

During IGIS Inquiries

During an inquiry the IGIS may:

  • compel the giving of information or the production of a document that the IGIS has reason to believe is relevant to an inquiry
  • require any person to appear and answer questions where the IGIS has reason to believe that they are able to give information relevant to the inquiry
  • administer an oath or affirmation to a person appearing and examine the person on oath or affirmation.

It is an offence to fail to give information or produce a document or answer a question from the Inspector-General when required to do so. There are protections for those persons giving information, producing a document to, or answering questions from the Inspector-General. Any information which is obtained using these powers is not generally admissible in any court or proceedings. Further, a person is not liable to any penalty under the provisions of any law of the Commonwealth or of the states or a territory by reason only of giving information, producing a document to or answering a question from the Inspector-General. This immunity ensures that, to the extent possible, the Inspector-General is able to pursue the truth of a matter rather than engaging persons in an unnecessarily adversarial process.

During ASIO questioning and detention warrants

The IGIS may enter any place of detention where a person is being held under an ASIO questioning and detention warrant. ASIO is required to advise the IGIS of its intention to seek the warrant so that the IGIS can give priority to attendance at the place of detention. ASIO questioning and detention warrants are rarely issued.

What is the role of the IGIS in FOI and Archives matters?

There are provisions in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) for the IGIS to give expert evidence to the Information Commissioner and the Administrative Appeal Tribunal (the AAT) in matters where an exemption has been claimed on the basis of section 33 of the FOI Act. The exemptions in section 33 relate to damage to the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth and to the disclosure of information communicated in confidence by a foreign government. Equivalent provisions for the IGIS to give evidence to the AAT in archives matters are contained in the Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act).

If you have applied for access to a document under the FOI Act or the Archives Act and the relevant Commonwealth agency is claiming an exemption under section 33 then it is possible the IGIS will be asked to give evidence. The IGIS does not become a party to the proceedings and any evidence given by the IGIS is independent of the agency claiming the exemption.

If you have made a FOI claim and it is being considered by the Information Commissioner the Commissioner will usually first consider your claim and the evidence presented by the Commonwealth agency involved. If the Commissioner is inclined to grant access to the documents you are seeking the Commissioner must ask the IGIS to give evidence before making a final decision. Usually the Commissioner will write to the IGIS about this and will also advise you that evidence is being sought from the IGIS. There is an MOU between the IGIS and the Information Commissioner about the procedures for the IGIS giving evidence. Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Information Commissioner and IGIS – PDF 278KB | Docx 44KB

If your FOI or Archives claim is being heard in the AAT the Tribunal is required to hear your evidence and the evidence of the relevant Commonwealth agency before calling the IGIS to give evidence. The Tribunal is only required to call the IGIS if it inclined to allow access to a document. Sometimes the IGIS will be asked to participate in directions hearings to work out the most efficient way for the IGIS to give evidence.

When the IGIS is asked to give evidence the first thing she needs to do is decide whether she is qualified to give that evidence. When deciding whether she is qualified to give the evidence the IGIS will have regard to the functions of the IGIS under the IGIS Act. Broadly those functions relate to the oversight of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
  • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
  • Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), and
  • Office of National Assessments (ONA).

If the exemption claim is about matters outside of the expertise of the IGIS, such as a claim that is purely about diplomatic relations or law enforcement and that is not connected to an intelligence or security matter the IGIS will decline to give evidence.

The IGIS is allowed to have access to the documents in question and also to any evidence, including any confidential evidence that has been given to the Information Commissioner or the AAT. The IGIS is also able to look at any other relevant material held by the Commonwealth. The IGIS is not able to give any of that material to you.

Sometimes the IGIS will give evidence by writing formally to the Information Commissioner or the AAT and in other cases she will give evidence personally at a hearing. The IGIS tries to give as much evidence as possible in a way that will enable you to see the evidence. However sometimes the nature of what the IGIS has to say will itself be classified and the Information Commissioner or the Tribunal may decide that you cannot see all of the IGIS evidence.

The IGIS does not decide whether a document that you are seeking should be given to you, that is the role of the Information Commissioner or the AAT. The role of the IGIS is to draw on the expertise that she has through her oversight of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies in order to provide independent evidence to assist the Information Commissioner or the AAT in making their decision. The Information Commissioner and the AAT are not bound by the opinion of the IGIS.

Is there anyone other than the IGIS who checks up on the AIC?

Like other government agencies the six Australian intelligence agencies are subject to oversight from a range of different bodies. The IGIS is an independent statutory officer who oversees the legality and propriety of the operations of the Australian intelligence agencies but the agencies are also subject to other controls and oversight:

The most sensitive and intrusive collection activities of Australian intelligence agencies are subject to ministerial oversight.

ASIO is required to obtain a warrant from the Attorney-General to intercept any telecommunication within Australia or to undertake other intrusive activities such as searching premises or using listening devices.

Specific ministerial authorisations are required by ASIS, ASD and AGO before those agencies undertake an activity for the purpose of producing intelligence on an Australian person or an activity that will have a direct effect on an Australian person.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is made up of parliamentarians drawn from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The PJCIS reviews the administration and expenditure of the Australian intelligence and security agencies including their financial statements and may review other matters referred to it by a minister or either House of Parliament. The PJCIS also monitors and reviews certain counter-terrorism functions of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and reviews matters related to the retained data activities of ASIO and the AFP.

The Auditor-General provide the Parliament with an independent assessment of selected areas of public administration, and assurance about public sector financial reporting, administration, and accountability. It conducts performance audits, financial statement audits, and assurance reviews of intelligence agencies.

The Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal reviews some adverse and qualified ASIO security assessments, including assessments provided in respect of an Australian passport application or cancellation, and some employment-related security assessments.

Adverse security assessments from ASIO relating to visas for people owed protection under international law who are in immigration detention, are subject to review by the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments.


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Independence of the IGIS

How is the IGIS selected for appointment?

The IGIS is appointed by the Governor-General on a recommendation by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is required to consult the Leader of the Opposition about the appointment.

The current IGIS was appointed in August 2015.

Can anyone direct the IGIS to take action?

The IGIS is an independent statutory office holder who has the authority to conduct inquiries and oversight activities in any way the IGIS sees fit.

Ministers with responsibility for an Australian intelligence agency may ask the IGIS to conduct inquiries into their agencies. The Prime Minister can ask the IGIS to conduct inquiries into an intelligence or security matter relating to any Commonwealth agency, not just the six agencies that the IGIS usually oversights.

Is the IGIS part of ASIO?

The office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is not a part of ASIO or of any intelligence or security agency and is funded and administered separately. The IGIS is an independent statutory office holder and is not subject to general direction from the Prime Minister or other Ministers.


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Complaints or concerns from members of the public

How do I make a complaint to the IGIS?

Complaints can be made online, by email, post or telephone.

Telephone calls to the office are handled by staff who will talk with you about your concerns, ask you for details and discuss some options for resolving issues. Staff may ask you to put information in writing to assist our assessment of your concerns.

If you need an interpreter, call the Telephone Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131450 and ask to be connected to this office. There is no cost to you for this service.

Face to face interviews are not available without the prior agreement of the office. Please call us to discuss this option. Current and former intelligence officials who wish to disclose classified information should contact the office to make appropriate arrangements.

Individuals who are or were ‘public officials’ may be covered by the protections in the Public Interest Disclosure scheme when making a disclosure to the IGIS.

Contact the IGIS

Online: on-line complaint form
Email: info@igis.gov.au
Post: One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6271 5692
Fax: 02 6271 5696

Can I make an anonymous complaint to the IGIS?

We do accept anonymous complaints.

It is also possible for you to disclose your identity to the IGIS and request that it not be disclosed to the relevant agency. In some circumstances, we can provide a degree of protection to you by not revealing the source of a complaint we are investigating. Further information about protections available in certain circumstances can be found under ‘Public Interest Disclosures (PID)’.

If you have an employment-related grievance against ASIO or ASIS it can be difficult for us to look into your complaint without telling the agency who you are. And if you remain anonymous but your complaint contains specific information that is known only to a limited number of people, it is possible that the relevant AIC agency might identify you.

We often cannot follow up anonymous complaints because they lack sufficient specific detail to conduct a meaningful investigation. In circumstances like this, we rely on our regular inspection of AIC activities to look for irregularities. If you choose to remain anonymous, please provide us with sufficient details to help us pinpoint your specific concerns, because if we can’t contact you to clarify the details, your complaint may be closed without action.

If you want feedback on the outcome of your complaint, you will need to provide contact details to the IGIS.

If I make a complaint to the IGIS, will the IGIS pass my details to anyone else?

When a complaint is made to the IGIS, we provide basic details to the agency concerned to enable them to respond to the complaint issues. The IGIS does not pass any more details than necessary to look into the complaint.

If the IGIS believes that your complaint would be better handled by another agency, we will seek your consent to forward your concerns to that agency.

The IGIS can also pass your details to another agency if necessary to preserve the well-being or safety of a person.

If I make a complaint to the IGIS, will ASIO start surveilling me?

The only reason ASIO would take an interest in a person who complains to the IGIS would be if that person was considered relevant to security.

ASIO has responsibility for investigating Australia’s security concerns. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (ASIO Act) defines threats to security as espionage, sabotage, politically motivated violence, attacks on Australia’s defence system, acts of foreign interference, and serious threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity.

If a member of the public is not engaged in any of these threats to security, it would be unlikely that ASIO would have an interest in them. ASIO does not have the resources or inclination to target members of the public who are simply going about their ordinary business and who have no clear relationship to security.

ASIO spoke to my employer and now I am concerned about my job. What can I do?

If you have concerns about the effects of any ASIO action you can raise your concerns with this office.

Contact the IGIS

Online: on-line complaint form
Email: info@igis.gov.au
Post: One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6271 5692
Fax: 02 6271 5696

I think I am subject to ASIO surveillance – can the IGIS stop it?

It is a matter for ASIO to decide how and when to undertake surveillance within the legal and policy parameters set by government. The IGIS will not tell you whether you or anyone else is the subject of surveillance. The IGIS can look at ASIO operational activities, including surveillance, to assess whether they are legal and proper.

If the IGIS has concerns about an agency’s activities she will raise those concerns first with the agency. If the IGIS is not satisfied with the agency’s response she may raise the concerns with the responsible minister.

Can the IGIS help me obtain a copy of an ASIO file?

No. All requests for historical ASIO records should be directed to the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

ASIO is an exempt agency under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. This means members of the public are not able to request or obtain access to current ASIO records. ASIO records are subject to release under the Archives Act 1983 once they enter the ‘open’ period.

Until recently, the open period related to Commonwealth records over 30 years old. Amendments to the Archives Act in 2010 resulted in a change in the ‘closed’ period from 30 years to 20 years. This change will be fully implemented by 2020.

ASIO records that have entered the open period are eligible for public release, after ASIO determines whether any information should be exempt on security grounds.

The IGIS does not hold, or provide access to, any ASIO files, and is unable to confirm whether or not a file exists. Information about how to locate an ASIO file can be found through the NAA website.

Please note that, in most instances, records are only physically transferred from ASIO to the NAA in response to an application for access under s. 40 of the Archives Act. You can make a request for access by phoning NAA on (02) 6212 6252. See the NAA website for more information on using the NAA collection.

ASIO want to interview me. Do I have to agree?

You do not have to participate in an interview with ASIO if you do not want to. ASIO has no power to detain you or to require you to participate in an interview. The only exception is if ASIO has a questioning or questioning and detention warrant. These warrants are very rarely used and would be clearly explained to you.

ASIO may ask to interview you to obtain information relevant to security or as part of a security assessment, including for visa related purposes. These interviews are voluntary. There may be benefits to you and to national security in participating in an ASIO interview. If you are a visa applicant it may be difficult for ASIO to finalise a security assessment as part of the visa process if you do not participate in an interview or if you do not answer questions fully and truthfully.

If you have agreed to a voluntary interview with ASIO you can stop the interview for a break or leave at any time if you want to. You can also ask to have your lawyer present.

Can I have a lawyer present at an ASIO interview?

If you agree to participate in an ASIO interview you can ask to have a lawyer present. ASIO may ask you to provide the contact details for the lawyer ahead of time and may ask them to make a confidentiality undertaking. If ASIO decides that the presence of your lawyer is counterproductive, they may tell you this and may stop the interview.

Can I tell anyone that I have been interviewed by ASIO?

If you have participated in a voluntary interview with ASIO you can tell others that you have done this if you want to. For example you may want to tell a lawyer or migration agent about the interview so they can give you advice. ASIO may ask that you not tell anyone about the interview in order to protect the effectiveness of ASIO methods.

Who can I call if I suspect somebody is involved in terrorist planning or financing activities?

If you wish to report suspicious activity, you should contact the National Security Hotline:

Phone: 1800 1234 00
From outside Australia: (+61) 1300 1234 01
Email: hotline@nationalsecurity.gov.au
MMS: 0429 771 822
TTY: 1800 234889

The National Security Hotline passes the information to the appropriate Australian police and security agencies for analysis and investigation.

Find out more on the National Security website.


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Public Interest Disclosures (PID)

How does the new Public Interest Disclosure (PID) scheme work?

The PID scheme promotes integrity and accountability for Australian Government agencies, including Australian intelligence agencies, by encouraging disclosure of information by public officials about suspected wrongdoing. The wrongdoing can have taken place at any time. The scheme protects the confidentiality of disclosers and provides statutory protections against reprisals.

Agencies are required to take action on disclosures. Agencies are also required to keep disclosers informed of actions taken under the scheme in response to their disclosure. Intelligence agencies report to the IGIS about their actions under the PID scheme, other agencies report to the Ombudsman.

Under the PID scheme disclosures can only be made by current or former ‘public officials’, but this is a broad term including all Australian Government public servants, ADF and AFP members, all staff of statutory bodies and Commonwealth companies as well as contracted service providers. Potential disclosers can also be deemed to be ‘public officials’ in certain circumstances.

Disclosures can be made to supervisors, and in addition all agencies are required to make formal appointments of ‘Authorised Officers’ to receive consider and take decisions on disclosures.

Disclosures about AIC agencies can also be made directly to the IGIS if you believe on reasonable grounds that it would be appropriate for the disclosure to be investigated by the IGIS. Phone 02 6271 5692 or email PID@igis.gov.au. If you need to disclose classified information please contact the office first so that appropriate steps can be taken to enable you to make a disclosure without breaching security procedures.

The PID scheme does not allow for any external (or public) disclosure of intelligence information.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman is responsible for the operation of the PID scheme.

What is the role of the IGIS when a PID complaint is lodged?

If a PID complaint is made within an AIC agency, agencies are required to advise the IGIS of it and keep the office informed of follow-up actions. In significant cases the disclosure might be allocated to the IGIS for investigation.

If a PID complaint is made directly to the IGIS, the IGIS will liaise with the agency concerned to determine the most appropriate follow-up action. Options include allocating the matter to the concerned agency for examination and possible investigation, or initiation either of an investigation under the PID Act or an inquiry under the IGIS Act.

The IGIS’s responsibilities include monitoring agencies’ actions to ensure they comply with the PID scheme, as well as assisting current or former public officials of the intelligence agencies in relation to the operation of the PID Act.

How can the IGIS protect PID complainants from reprisals?

Under the PID scheme, a disclosers’ identity will be kept confidential as far as practicable. It is an offence to provide identifying information about a discloser without their consent, unless there is specific authority to do so under the PID Act.

Disclosers also have immunity from civil, criminal or administrative liability – including disciplinary action – for making a disclosure. It is a criminal offence to take, or threaten to take, reprisals against a discloser.

The IGIS has a responsibility to ensure AIC agencies act in accordance with the scheme, including to ensure these agencies comply with the requirement to protect disclosers from reprisals. The IGIS will examine how an AIC agency has managed a PID complaint in any case where it is claimed the discloser has suffered from reprisals.


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Security Assessments

I have been told that my visa/citizenship application has been referred to ASIO for a security check. What does this mean?

ASIO conducts visa security assessments for visa applicants at the request of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. If your visa application has been referred for a security assessment, ASIO may assess information provided by you and conduct its own checks. ASIO may also ask you to agree to a voluntary interview. It is important that all information provided by you is accurate and honest. Once the assessment is complete, the results are passed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, where a decision to grant or withhold a visa will be made.

Consistent with ASIO’s role as an intelligence agency, a security assessment only considers factors related to security as defined in the ASIO Act. In practice, this is usually terrorism, other forms of politically motivated violence, espionage and foreign interference, and serious threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity. ASIO Security Assessments are not the same as police criminal or character checks, and factors such as criminal history, dishonesty or deceit are only relevant to ASIO’s advice if they have a bearing on national security considerations.

The IGIS can check whether ASIO is acting with legality and propriety in undertaking a visa assessment but the IGIS does not undertake merits review. The Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments can conduct a form of merits review of adverse security assessments for people owed protection under international law who are in immigration detention. Eligible individuals should be provided with information about that review option.

The IGIS will not ordinarily confirm or deny whether a particular person has been referred to ASIO for a security assessment. This is because ASIO has advised that doing so may prejudice security because it may disclose information about what types of cases are referred.

ASIO want to interview me. Do I have to agree?

You do not have to participate in an interview with ASIO if you do not want to. ASIO has no power to detain you or to require you to participate in an interview. The only exception is if ASIO has a questioning or questioning and detention warrant. These warrants are very rarely used and would be clearly explained to you.

ASIO may ask to interview you to obtain information relevant to security or as part of a security assessment, including for visa related purposes. These interviews are voluntary. There may be benefits to you and to national security in participating in an ASIO interview. If you are a visa applicant it may be difficult for ASIO to finalise a security assessment as part of the visa process if you do not participate in an interview or if you do not answer questions fully and truthfully.

If you have agreed to a voluntary interview with ASIO you can stop the interview for a break or leave at any time if you want to. You can also ask to have your lawyer present.

Can I have a lawyer present at an ASIO interview?

If you agree to participate in an ASIO interview you can ask to have a lawyer present. ASIO may ask you to provide the contact details for the lawyer ahead of time and may ask them to make a confidentiality undertaking. If ASIO decides that the presence of your lawyer is counterproductive, they may tell you this and may stop the interview.

Can I tell anyone that I have been interviewed by ASIO?

If you have participated in a voluntary interview with ASIO you can tell others that you have done this if you want to. For example you may want to tell a lawyer or migration agent about the interview so they can give you advice. ASIO may ask that you not tell anyone about the interview in order to protect the effectiveness of ASIO methods.

ASIO has given me an adverse security assessment. What can I do?

The Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal reviews some adverse and qualified ASIO security assessments, including assessments provided in respect of an Australian passport application or cancellation, and some employment-related security assessments.

Adverse security assessments from ASIO relating to visas for people owed protection under international law who are in immigration detention are subject to review by the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments.

I have been denied a security clearance which I need for my job. What can I do?

If you wish to appeal the decision, first contact the agency that assessed your case and go through their internal review mechanisms and appeals process.

If you receive an adverse or qualified security assessment from ASIO, in certain circumstances you can apply to the Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review.

Where a person cannot apply for a review they can complain to the IGIS. We do not assess the merits of any particular security clearance assessment and cannot overturn a decision; however the IGIS can examine procedural aspects of security assessments made by ASIO. Where the IGIS considers that a processing error may have been made, the assessment lacks balance or objectivity, or there are questions as to the legality or propriety of the process, the IGIS may ask the agency to conduct a fresh assessment.

My security clearance has been suspended or withdrawn – what can the IGIS do for me?

ASIO and ASIS employees are advised by their employer that they make a complaint to the IGIS within 14 days of receiving a notice of their employer’s intention to withdraw their personnel security clearance and that their employment will not be terminated in that time. After receiving such a complaint, the IGIS will usually hold separate discussions with the employee and their employer, and review relevant files. The IGIS does not review the merits of a case, but considers such things as whether the process was procedurally fair and objective.

Details of any other appeal mechanisms should be included on the notice of your employer’s intention to withdraw your security clearance. In some cases you may have the right to go to the Fair Work Commission if your employment is terminated.

The IGIS cannot inquire into employment related matters for current employees of other agencies. You are able to raise employment grievances internally within your agency and, for Defence staff, through broader Defence mechanisms. The IGIS can look at systemic issues with grievance procedures.

Current and former employees may also be able to raise concerns about maladministration through the PID Scheme.

Certain adverse and qualified security assessments that have been made by ASIO can be appealed in the Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

In some cases you may have the right to go to the Fair Work Commission.


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Advice for current and former AIC employees, sources or agents

What can I tell the IGIS about my work? Do staff members have appropriate security clearances?

The security clearance process is one of the mechanisms used to ensure classified information is only entrusted to suitable people who demonstrate a proper appreciation of their protective security responsibilities and obligations.

All IGIS employees hold and maintain a Positive Vet (previously known as a Top Secret Positive Vet) security clearance which is the highest clearance available in Australia. Staff are also required to comply with strict secrecy provisions.

Employees and former employees of intelligence agencies can make a complaint to the IGIS without breaching their secrecy obligations.

I work for an intelligence agency and have signed a secrecy undertaking – can I still make a complaint to the IGIS?

Yes. It is not a breach of a secrecy provision or secrecy undertaking to provide information to the IGIS. It is the role of the IGIS office to take complaints about the activities of intelligence agencies. If you want to provide classified information to the IGIS you should contact the office so that arrangements can be made to transmit the information in a secure manner.

How long does a secrecy undertaking have effect?

Unless the undertaking specifically states a time frame, undertakings of this kind ordinarily have enduring effect (that is, they are binding for life).

Even if a secrecy undertaking specifies a time limit, you may also be bound by legal restrictions about conveying official information without authority (Crimes Act 1914), or which reveal the true identity of ASIO or ASIS agency staff, or details of operational activities (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001).

Secrecy undertakings and obligations do not prevent you from disclosing information to the IGIS.


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Contact the IGIS

Contact details

Online: on-line complaint form
Email: info@igis.gov.au
Post: One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6271 5692
Fax: 02 6271 5696

Are translation services available?

Yes. Telephone translation services are available through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).

To contact TIS call 131 450. There is no cost to you for this service.

Further information can be found on the Translating and Interpreting Service website.

Media contact

All media contact is by email to info@igis.gov.au. This inbox is monitored during business hours.

The IGIS does not comment on any particular intelligence matter or current inquiry. Public reports of inquiries are usually made available on our website. The IGIS annual reports also contain details of inquiries.