Chapter 1 The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
Section 28 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (the IS Act)
establishes the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The
Act governs its size, structure, functions, procedures and powers. This report
is made in compliance with section 31 of the Act which states that:
As soon as practicable after each year ending on 30 June, the
Committee must give to Parliament a report on the activities of the Committee
during the year.
Due to the Federal Election held in 2010 the Committee was not
constituted until late 2010. The Committee first met on 25 November 2010 and
since that meeting has met for a further 6 times on the following occasions:
n Meeting 2 – 10
n Meeting 3 – 3 March
n Meeting 4 – 24 March
n Meeting 5 – 25 March
2011 (private hearing);
n Meeting 6 - 16 June
2011 (public hearing); and
n Meeting 7 – 23 June
Size and Structure
Section 28 (2) (3) of the IS Act stipulates that the Committee is a
joint Committee of Parliament comprised of nine members, four of whom must be
Senators and five of whom must be members of the House of Representatives. A
majority of the Committee’s members must be government members.
Members are appointed by resolution of the House or the Senate on the
nomination of the Prime Minister or the leader of the Government in the Senate.
Prior to nomination, consultation must take place with the leaders of
recognised parties in each of the Houses.
Change to size of the Committee
Schedule 8 of the Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence
Services Legislation Amendment Act 2011 amended Subsection 28(2) of the Intelligence
Services Act 2001 so that the Committee is to consist of 11 members, 5 of
whom must be Senators and 6 of whom must be members of the House of
Representatives. In addition, the quorum for the Committee was changed from 5
to 6 members.
Senator Mark Bishop was appointed to the Committee on 23 June 2011.
At the time of writing no other additional members had been appointed to
Under section 29 of the IS Act, the Committee is charged with reviewing
the administration and expenditure of all six intelligence agencies: ASIO, ASIS, DSD, DIGO, DIO and ONA. Other matters may be referred by the responsible Minister or by a
resolution of either House of the Parliament. In addition to this function, the
Committee is required to review the operation, effectiveness and implications
n The amendments made
by the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002 and the
Border Security Legislation Amendment Act 2002;
Criminal Code Amendment (Suppression Terrorist Bombings) Act 2002; and
Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002; and
n Division 3 of Part III of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.
Amendments made to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (the Criminal Code),
made in March 2004, further tasked the Committee with reviewing regulations
which specify organisations as terrorist organisations for the purposes of
section 102.1 of the Criminal Code. The Committee’s findings on its reviews of
these regulations are to be tabled before the end of the disallowance period,
15 sitting days from the tabling of the regulation.
No reports reviewing regulations which specify organisations as
terrorist organisations were tabled during the reporting period.
Procedures and powers
The Committee is a statutory committee. Section 29 of the IS Act
outlines the oversight capacity of the Committee. However unlike other
statutory or standing committees of Parliament there are specific limitations
in this section with regard to the Committee’s capacity to inquire into
operational matters and the intelligence gathering and assessment priorities of
the relevant intelligence agencies. Again the Committee
reiterates that, due to this limitation, balancing national security and
parliamentary scrutiny remains a challenge for the Committee.
Despite these constraints, the Committee is ever mindful of its critical role
in ensuring that Australia’s intelligence agencies remain accountable through
continuous public scrutiny.
Authority to inquire into special cases and operational matters lies
with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) under the Inspector
General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986. In conjunction with the IGIS
the Committee provides essential bi-partisan oversight of the AIC.
Specific prohibitions on the Committee’s activities include the
n Reviewing the
intelligence gathering priorities of the agencies;
n Reviewing sources of
information, other operational assistance or operational methods available to
n Reviewing particular
operations past, present or proposed;
n Reviewing sources of
information provided by a foreign government or its agencies, without the
consent of that government to the disclosure;
n Reviewing an aspect
of the activities of the agencies that does not affect an Australian person;
n Reviewing rules with
the Act relating to the privacy of Australian citizens; or
n Conducting inquiries
into individual complaints in relation to the activities of the agencies.
The IS Act also specifies the Committee’s powers in relation to
requesting witnesses and the production of documents. Clause 2 of Schedule 1
specifies that the Committee may give a person written notice requiring the
person to appear before the Committee with at least 5 days notice, as well as
notice of any documents required by the Committee.
The Minister may prevent the appearance of a person (not an agency head)
before the Committee to prevent the disclosure of operationally sensitive
information either verbally or in a document. To achieve this, the Minister
must provide a certificate outlining his opinion to the presiding member of the
Committee, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the
Senate and the person required to give evidence or produce documents.
There were no cases where this power was exercised during the year in review.
The IS Act also contains a protection, under subclause 7(1) of Schedule
1, against the disclosure in Committee reports of operationally sensitive
n the identity of a
person who is or has been a staff member of ASIO, ASIS or DSD; or
n any information from
which the identity of such a person could reasonably be inferred; or
sensitive information that would or might prejudice:
-> Australia’s national security or the conduct of Australia’s foreign relations; or
performance by an agency of its functions.
Unlike the reports of other parliamentary committees which are
privileged documents which may not be disclosed to anyone outside the committee
itself until after tabling, the Intelligence and Security Committee must obtain
the advice of the responsible Minister or Ministers as to whether any part of a
report of the Committee discloses a matter referred to in subclause 7(1) of
Schedule 1. A report may not be tabled until this advice is received.
Lastly, to protect the national security status of the Committee’s work
and to maximise the Committee’s access to information, the IS Act requires that
staff of the Committee must be cleared for security purposes to the same level
and at the same frequency as staff members of ASIS.
In addition to the security requirements for staff all new members of
the Committee in 2010-11 were informed of the main legislation governing
information regarding the AIC.
This information to members specifies that Section 92 of the ASIO Act
1979 makes it illegal to divulge the names of employees or former employees of
ASIO. Section 41 of the IS Act makes it illegal to divulge the names of
employees of ASIS. Sections 39, 39A and 40 of the IS Act make it illegal to
divulge the names of employees or former employees of ASIS, DIGO and DSD. These
sections also make it illegal to divulge information connected with functions
of or information that relates to performance of functions of ASIS, DIGO and DSD. Members were also informed that this prohibition extends to information
Committee members receive at briefings by these agencies.
Reports and Activities 2010-2011
Since the last annual report on the Committee’s activities, tabled in
June 2011, the Committee has not tabled any further reports.
The following reports are expected to be tabled in late 2011:
n Administration and
Expenditure Review No. 9 2009-2010
-> On 25
March 2011 the Committee held a private hearing at which ASIO, ASIS, DSD, DIGO,
ONA and DIO appeared before the Committee; and
-> On 16
June 2011 the Committee held a public hearing — its first since July 2006
— and heard from representatives of the Refugee Council of Australia, RISE (Refugees,
Survivors and Ex-Detainees), the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and ASIO in
relation to visa security assessments.
The Committee’s report Review of the Listing of
Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Pennisula (AQAP) and the re-listing of 6 Terrorist
Organisations was tabled on 22 August 2011 and will
be reported on in the Committee’s Annual Report of Committee Activities for
Administration and Expenditure Reviews
Reviewing administration and expenditure on an annual basis is one of
the primary functions of the Committee. Section 29 of the IS Act stipulates
that the Committee has an obligation to review the administration and
expenditure of ASIO, ASIS, DSD, DIO, DIGO and ONA including the annual
During the reporting period the Committee did not table any
administration and expenditure reports. The Committee is currently working on
its report for its Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 9, 2009-2010.
Visit to ASIO, ASIS and ONA
On 17 June 2011 the Committee visited ASIO, ASIS and ONA. The Committee
received highly classified briefings on aspects of these agencies performance.
Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS)
On Thursday 24 March, the Inspector General of Intelligence and
Security, Dr Vivienne Thom, briefed the Committee on the role of the IGIS and
on the IGIS’ submission to the Committee’s Administration and Expenditure
Review No. 9.
Independent Review of the Intelligence Community
On 23 June 2011 members of the Committee met with Mr Robert Cornall AO
in relation to the 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community.
The Independent Review of the Intelligence Community (IRIC) in 2011 will
review the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) in accordance with a
recommendation of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (the Flood
Inquiry) in 2004. The primary focus of this review will be the work of the six
AIC agencies – Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the
Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Defence Imagery and
Geospatial Organisation (DIGO), the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO),
the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the Office of National Assessments
The aim of the review is to address six key issues:
n how well the
intelligence community is positioned to support Australia’s national interests,
now and into the future;
n development of the
intelligence community over the last decade, including implementation of
n working arrangements
and relationships between the intelligence agencies and policy and operational
areas of government;
n working arrangements
and relationships between the intelligence agencies and their international
n arrangements and
practices within the intelligence community for collaborative work, including
legislative arrangements; and
n level of resourcing
dedicated to the intelligence community and apportionment of resources across
the community, noting that any future proposals would need to be offset
consistent with the Government’s overall fiscal strategy.
The review will prepare findings and recommendations on the above issues
and seek to provide a classified report to the Government around mid-year for
its consideration in due course, as well as an accompanying unclassified
version of that report.
Issues arising during the year
No issues of particular concern arose during 2010/11.
Support for the Committee
To fulfil its statutory and other obligations the Committee is reliant
on secretariat staff. In the reporting period the Committee was supported by
four full time parliamentary officers. This consisted of a secretary, an
inquiry secretary, a senior research officer and an office manager.
All staff are required under the Intelligence Services Act 2001
(Schedule 1 Part 3 section 21) to be cleared to the ‘level of staff members of
ASIS’ or a top secret positive security clearance (TSPV). Two staff, the
inquiry secretary and the senior research officer, were cleared to this level. These
staffing and clearance levels were sufficient for the work of the Committee.
The Hon Anthony Byrne, MP