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We also received contacts from approximately 210 individuals seeking advice or expressing concern about matters affecting them that were assessed to be outside the jurisdiction of the office, or did not require action. This is a third less than the 325 contacts received in 2015-16.
When we are contacted about matters that we cannot pursue, we provide written or oral advice about the office's jurisdiction and alternative action that can be taken to resolve concerns, including other complaint-handling bodies, such as the police and the National Security Hotline. In cases where there has been previous contact about matters that have already been assessed, the office takes no further action unless substantially new and credible information is provided.
Allegations of discrimination in recruitment practices
An individual complained that the ASIS recruitment process was unreasonable in that it failed to give reasons why the applicant was unsuccessful and inappropriately took account of the applicant's racial background. IGIS reviewed the ASIS selection process and the individual's application and was satisfied that the recruitment decision was based on fair and reasonable grounds.
Similarly, another individual complained that ASIO's recruitment process was unreasonable, alleging that factors other than merit, such as the applicant's age, had been taken into account, and that no reasons were given for the applicant's lack of success. In this case, too, IGIS reviewed all relevant material and found no evidence of unreasonable or inappropriate decisions in ASIO's consideration of the application.
There are valid reasons why the intelligence agencies do not provide feedback to external applicants, ensuring that the agencies are protected from individuals seeking to gain access for the purpose of compromising Australia's security. IGIS's role is not to review the merits of agencies' employment decisions, but where questions arise such as these about discriminatory practices, IGIS will examine relevant aspects of agency records to consider the propriety of agency decision-making.
Allegations of inappropriate cooperation with foreign officials
An individual contacted IGIS for assistance when a relative overseas was allegedly kidnapped by foreign officials and taken to an embassy. It was alleged that the relative's Australian passport was confiscated at the request of ASIO and another Australian agency for a terrorism-related reason, and that ASIO had put the relative at risk of torture by the foreign officials.
IGIS sought advice from ASIO on its role, if any, in this matter. IGIS was satisfied that ASIO had not acted in either an illegal or inappropriate manner. IGIS provided information to the complainant about the consular assistance being given to the complainant's relative, as well as about relevant protocols on ASIO's information exchange with foreign officials.
Further information about ASIO's exchange of information with foreign officials is on page 19 of this report.
Referrals from the Australian Human Rights Commission
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is required by section 11(3) of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 to refer to the IGIS human rights and discrimination matters relating to an act or practice of the intelligence and security agencies.
In 2016-17 the AHRC referred one case to the IGIS. As this matter had recently been the subject of IGIS investigation and IGIS had written to the complainant on that occasion, the IGIS wrote to the individual concerned to advise no further action was required.