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We received 36 non visa/citizenship-related complaints in 2016-17 (excluding PID matters), some of which related to more than one agency. This is a 44% increase over the 25 we received in the previous reporting period. The majority of these complaints (31) were about ASIO. Three complaints were about ASIS, one concerned ASD, and one concerned ASIO, ASD and DIO.
The average time taken to acknowledge other complaints was 0.6 business days. We responded to 100% of complaints within five business days, surpassing our performance target of 90%. Of the 36 complaints received, 34 were closed at the end of the reporting period, with an average of 20 days until a final response was sent.
All 36 of these complaints were investigated administratively. The complaints covered a wide range of matters, including allegations about:
- the way in which ASIO conducted interviews with members of the public
- the return of goods seized under warrant
- recruitment practices across the Australian intelligence community, including discrimination on the basis of age and race
- security assessments for employment
- passport cancellation
All complainants were given advice about the action the office had taken in response to their complaints, noting our consideration of agency briefings or access to records, and how any concerns were resolved. Where appropriate, complainants were also invited to contact the office again if their concerns persisted.
Five complainants received direct remedies as a result of their complaints to the office. Three individuals who had complained were granted their employment-related security clearances following significant periods of delay. In one case, ASIO identified that processing errors had led to the delay in its assessment for an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) and sent a written apology to the complainant. ASIO also introduced changes to some of its employment-related security assessment processing methods which are expected to improve processing times.
One complainant was provided advice and assurance by the office as to the safety of an individual overseas and the limits of ASIO's exchange of information with a foreign country. In another case, ASIO returned seized items to the complainant following their complaint to the office.
We do not measure complainant satisfaction, and few complainants contact the office to report either satisfaction or disappointment with the outcome of their complaints. In those instances where we are aware that an issue has remained unresolved when we close a complaint, we may monitor agencies' actions through our inspection program. In all cases, we provide advice about our role, and the role and functions of relevant Australian intelligence agencies. Where we do not address specific concerns, we provide details of suitable alternative avenues to pursue, if this is appropriate.