About this committee

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is constituted under section 28 of
the Intelligence Services Act 2001
(the IS ACT).

The Committee conducts inquiries into matters referred to it by the House of Representatives or a Minister of the Commonwealth Government.

Track Committee

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 2360
Fax: +61 2 6277 2067
pjcis@aph.gov.au

History of the Intelligence and Security Committee

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO - 1988 to 2001

The Committee was first appointed in August 1988, during the 35th Parliament, as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (the ASIO Committee).

The ASIO Committee had its legislative basis in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, which was amended in December 1986 following the then Government's response to the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies led by Justice Robert Hope. Although Justice Hope had recommended against the establishment of such a parliamentary oversight Committee–instead recommending the appointment of an Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) and existing internal scrutiny measures within the Government–the Government argued that:

...further improvement [to existing oversight and accountability measures] can be obtained by directly involving the Parliament–on both sides and in both Houses–in imposing the discipline of an external scrutiny of the intelligence and security agencies quite independent of the Executive. While the Government has been conscious also of the need to carefully protect intelligence and security information, it believes that appropriate arrangements can be made to ensure that a small but informed parliamentary committee would operate effectively in the public interest.

From its establishment up until the passage of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, the ASIO Committee was dependent on the Minister or a House of the Parliament referring particular matters to it for inquiry. In the 35th Parliament, the ASIO Committee commenced, but did not complete, an inquiry into the effect on ASIO of the access provisions of the Archives Act.

The second ASIO Committee was appointed in the 36th Parliament and completed the inquiry into the operation of the access provisions of the Archives Act with the tabling of a report in April 1992. The Committee also commenced, but did not complete, an inquiry into ASIO's security assessment procedures.

In the 37th Parliament, the Committee completed the inquiry into ASIO's security assessment procedures with the tabling of a report in March 1994. The Committee also began an inquiry into cost recovery practices and ASIO. The inquiry lapsed upon the dissolution of the 37th Parliament.

When the ASIO Committee was reconstituted in the 38th Parliament it resolved to take a new approach to its activities. Instead of conducting inquiries, the Committee developed further the practice adopted in earlier Parliaments of seeking regular, informal briefings from the Director-General of ASIO and the IGIS. During the 38th Parliament the Committee received briefings on various subjects, including security precautions and counter-terrorism arrangements being planned in preparation for the Sydney 2000 Olympics; ASIO's role in monitoring the national security implications of the crisis in the Persian Gulf; corporate restructuring in ASIO; ASIO's data collection and retention safeguards, and procedures for accessing archived ASIO material; and proposed amendments to the ASIO Act.

In the 39th Parliament, the ASIO Committee conducted a review of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment Bill 1999, followed by an inquiry into the nature, scope and appropriateness of ASIO's public reporting activities. The members of the ASIO Committee in the 39th Parliament also served on the Joint Select Committee on the Intelligence Services that reviewed the Intelligence Services Bill 2001, which received Royal Assent on 1 October 2001.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD (PJCAAD) - 2002 to 2005

Following the passage of the Intelligence Services Bill 2001, the former ASIO Committee was replaced by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD (PJCAAD). The legislative basis of the Committee was now in the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (the IS Act) and the PJCAAD met for the first time in March 2002, at the beginning of the 40th Parliament.

The IS Act extended the Committee's oversight to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD, since renamed the Australian Signals Directorate), in addition to its existing oversight of ASIO. The IS Act also tasked the Committee with conducting reviews of the administration and expenditure of the three agencies–for which there would be no need for a reference from a Minister or a House of the Parliament–and with presenting an Annual Report of its activities.

The PJCAAD's first report was an Advisory Report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002. The Committee then tabled itsAnnual Report for 2001-2002, which incorporated the Committee's first review of administration and expenditure of the three intelligence agencies. Other inquiries completed during the 40th Parliament included a private review of agency security arrangements, an inquiry into intelligence on Iraq's Weapons on Mass Destruction (WMD) and a review of the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2003.

In March 2004, a provision was inserted into Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 enabling the PJCAAD to review any regulation proscribing a "terrorist organisation", as soon as possible after the making of the regulation, and to report the Committee's comments and recommendations to Parliament before the end of the applicable disallowance period–a period of 15 sitting days. The Committee's first report using these powers was tabled in June 2004, being a review of the listing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organisation. The Committee was also required to review, as soon as possible after the third anniversary of the Act's commencement, the operation, effectiveness and implications of the legislation for the proscription of terrorist organisations.

The PJCAAD reviewed the listings of a number of terrorist organisations during the 41st Parliament and conducted annual reviews of the administration and expenditure of ASIO, ASIS and DSD. The Committee also conducted a review of ASIO's questioning and detention powers, as mandated under the IS Act; and reviewed the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2005, which, among other changes, extended the Committee's oversight mandate to include three additional intelligence agencies.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security - 2005 to present

On 2 December 2005, following the passage of the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2005, the Committee was re-established as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

The Committee now included the Defence Imagery and Geospation Organisation (DIGO, since renamed Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation), the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in its oversight role, in addition to ASIO, ASIS and DSD. This change was in response to recommendations of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies by Mr Philip Flood AO (the "Flood Inquiry").

During the remainder of the 41st Parliament, the PJCIS conducted a review of four pieces of terrorist-related legislation, as mandated under the IS Act, informed by input from an independent Security Legislation Review Committee chaired by the Hon Simon Sheller AO QC (the "Sheller Committee"). Amongst other recommendations coming out of its review, the PJCIS recommended the appointment of an Independent Reviewer of terrorism law in Australia. This recommendation was accepted by the Government and implemented through the appointment of the first Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) in 2011. As required under the IS Act, the PJCIS also conducted an inquiry during the 41st Parliament into the proscription of terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.

During the 42nd and 43rd Parliaments, the PJCIS continued to review terrorist organisation listings (and re-listings), conduct annual reviews of the administration and expenditure of the six agencies under its remit, receive private briefings, conduct site inspections and produce annual reports of its activities. In the 43rd Parliament, the Committee additionally conducted an inquiry into a wide range of "potential reforms" to Australia's national security legislation referred by the Attorney-General.

The PJCIS's work during the 44th Parliament was characterised by reviews of a series of significant pieces of national security legislation, which included implementation of many of the proposals reviewed in the Committee's inquiry into "potential reforms". The following bills were reviewed by the Committee:

The PJCIS's own role and functions have been extended as a result of recommendations made during these Bill inquiries being adopted. New responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing proscription under the Criminal Code of 'declared areas' in overseas countries
  • Monitoring and reviewing the performance of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)'s counter-terrorism functions under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code
  • Reviewing any matters in relation to the retained data activities of the AFP and ASIO set out in their annual reports on the mandatory data retention regime, including (for the first time) reviewing particular operations
  • Reviewing any Bills in relation to the mandatory data retention regime that
    • amend the data set required to be retained
    • amend the organisations required to retain data
    • amend the organisations authorised to access retained data
  • Being notified of certain declarations made in relation to the data retention regime and any Journalist Information Warrants that are issued
  • Being provided with any reports produced by the IGIS or the Commonwealth Ombudsman in relation to data retention
  • Being notified by the IGIS of any emergency ministerial authorisations given to intelligence agencies under the IS Act
  • Reviewing the declaration of any terrorist organisation for the purposes of section 35AA of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007
  • Being notified of and briefed on instances where a person's citizenship is lost under sections 33AA, 35 or 35A of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.

The Committee is also required under the IS Act to conduct reviews in future Parliaments of certain pieces of national security legislation (see Role of the Committee for details).