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Activity 5 Advice to Parliamentary Committees and Others

ABOUT ADVICE TO PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES AND OTHERS

The IGIS is invited on a regular basis to participate in the proceedings of parliamentary committees and other similar bodies.

PERFORMANCE SUMMARY

Providing advice to parliamentary committees and others on oversight issues relating to intelligence agency powers and functions.

Performance criteria and indicators: timeliness of advice provided to parliamentary committees and similar bodies.

Target: written submissions provided by the date requested or agreed.

Source: IGIS Corporate Plan 2017-21, p. 6.

All advice was provided by the requested or agreed dates.

During the reporting period the IGIS contributed to six parliamentary committee inquiries.

DISCUSSION

SENATE ESTIMATES HEARINGS

The Inspector-General appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration on 23 October 2017 for Supplementary Budget Estimates, on 27 February 2018 during the 2017-18 Additional Estimates hearings and on 21 May 2018 for the 2018-19 Budget Estimates.

PARLIAMENTARY JOINT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY (PJCIS)

The Inspector-General participated in five inquiries conducted by the PJCIS during the reporting period:

  • Review of ASIO's questioning and detention power
  • Security of Critical Infrastructure Bill 2017
  • Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill 2017
  • National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017
  • Review of Administration and Expenditure 2016-17

The Inspector-General's contributions to the PJCIS's legislation inquiries provided information about the oversight implications of proposed changes to agencies' governing legislation; and in some instances about potential impact on the performance by the Inspector-General of her functions. The Inspector-General's evidence was reflected in the findings and recommendations of the Committee, which were, in turn, implemented in parliamentary amendments to the relevant Bills.

The passage of the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Act 2018 was particularly significant for the office, as was the PJCIS inquiry that preceded it. In the Bill as originally introduced, the Government had proposed that the Attorney-General should have the power to direct the Inspector-General to inquire into a matter. The Inspector-General appeared before the committee and submitted that in order to preserve the actual and perceived independence of the office the Prime Minister alone should have this power. The PJCIS agreed with the submissions and evidence of the Inspector-General about this matter. The Government accepted the PJCIS's recommendation that the Prime Minister alone should have this power.

In relation to the PJCIS inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 the Inspector-General gave evidence about the potential effect of the new secrecy offences on IGIS staff and on others who may want to provide the office with information. The Committee's report was tabled on 7 June 2018, and its recommendations for amendments, including to the secrecy provisions of the Bill, were implemented in Parliamentary amendments. The Bill was passed on 28 June 2018.

Broadly, the three other inquiries involved proposals to amend functions or powers in intelligence legislation. The Inspector-General typically provided comments on the oversight implications (including resource impact) of these proposals.

SENATE FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE COMMITTEE

The Inspector-General participated in one inquiry conducted by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee during the reporting period:

  • Intelligence Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate)
    Bill 2018

The Inspector-General made a submission to the inquiry into the establishment of ASD as a statutory agency to explain how the new measures and functions, including those relating to cybercrime, might be overseen. The submission noted that the existing inspections regime of ASD activity by the IGIS would continue largely unaffected by the changes. The Inspector-General added that from 1 July 2018 the office would gain jurisdiction for employment-related complaints by ASD staff. The new ASD function relating to cybercrime was viewed as consistent with the existing framework of the ISA and the office would oversee this new function including through review of ministerial authorisations.

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