Legislation

The AIC agencies are subject to the operation of Australian law unless specifically exempted because of the nature of their work.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 establishes the IGIS as an independent statutory officer with extensive powers to scrutinise actions of the intelligence and security agencies.  The IGIS is within the Prime Minister’s portfolio but is not a part of any other government agency or department.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 prescribes ASIO’s functions and provides for the Attorney-General to issue guidelines to ASIO and requires that ASIO report annually to the Attorney-General.

The Office of National Assessments Act 1977 prescribes ONA’s functions as an assessment agency.  It also establishes the National Assessment Board and requires ONA to report annually to the Prime Minister.

The Intelligence Services Act 2001 prescribes the functions of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and also establishes a parliamentary committee to review the administration and expenditure of these three agencies as well as ASIO, ONA and the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO).

All of the AIC agencies are subject to the Archives Act 1983, however the AIC agencies and the IGIS are able, under the provisions of Section 29 of the Archives Act, to declare certain documents to be exempt documents.  This has the effect of allowing the heads of these agencies from declaring that a document is exempt from being transferred to the custody of the Archives under section 27, or is exempt from being accessed by National Archives of Australia (NAA) or allows agency heads to place conditions on access by NAA.

All of the AIC agencies and the IGIS are exempt agencies under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (see schedule 2, section 7, Part I – Exempt agencies).  ASIO, ASIS, ONA and IGIS are exempt from the provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 while DSD, DIO and DIGO are exempt from the operation of the Privacy Act in relation to their intelligence activities.