The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is appointed under section 28 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001(the IS Act). It has three main types of functions, including:
- providing oversight of Australian intelligence agencies by reviewing their administration and expenditure;
- building bipartisan support for national security legislation by reviewing national security bills introduced to Parliament; and
- ensuring national security legislation remains necessary, proportionate and effective by conducting statutory reviews.
These functions are provided for in section 29 of the IS Act, which details many of the Committee’s specific responsibilities, including:
- reviewing the administration and expenditure of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and Office of National Intelligence (ONI), including their annual financial statements;
- reviewing any matter in relation to ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO, ASD or ONI referred to the Committee by the responsible Minister or by a resolution of either House of the Parliament;
- monitoring, and reviewing the performance by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) of its functions under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code (terrorism);
- monitoring and reviewing the performance by the AFP of its functions under Division 3A of Part IAA of the Crimes Act 1914 (stop, search and seizure powers), and the basis of the Minister’s declarations of prescribed security zones under section 3UJ of that Act;
- reporting on any matter appertaining to the AFP or connected with the performance of its functions under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code;
- reviewing, by 7 January 2021, the operation, effectiveness and implications of the following:
- Division 3A of Part IAA of the Crimes Act 1914 (police powers in relation to terrorist acts and terrorism offences);
- Division 104 and 105 of the Criminal Code (control orders and preventative detention orders);
- sections 119.2 and 119.3 of the Criminal Code ("declared area" provisions)
- the basis for declarations of proscribed security zones under section 3UJ of the Crimes Act 1914;
- conducting the following reviews, by 13 April 2020, under section 187N of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act):
- reviewing - for the sole purpose of assessing and making recommendations on the overall operation and effectiveness of the mandatory data retention regime - any matter that relates to the retained data activities of ASIO and is included in ASIO's annual report;
- reviewing - for the sole purpose of assessing and making recommendations on the overall operation and effectiveness of the mandatory data retention regime - any matter that relates to the retained data activities of the AFP in relation to offences against Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code (terrorism) and is set out in the AFP's annual report on access to telecommunications data;
- reviewing by, 1 December 2019, the operation, effectiveness and implications of sections 33AA, 35, 35AA and 35A of the Australian Citizenship Act 2017 (regarding the cessation of Australian Citizenship) and any other provision of that Act as far as it relates to those sections;
The IS Act also limits the inquiry powers of the Committee by providing that the functions of the Committee do not include:
- reviewing the intelligence gathering and assessment priorities of ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO, ASD or ONI;
- reviewing the sources of information, other operational assistance or operational methods available to ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO, ASD or ONI;
- reviewing particular operations that have been, are being or are proposed to be undertaken by ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO or ASD;
- reviewing information provided by, or by an agency of a foreign government where that government does not consent to the disclosure of the information;
- reviewing an aspect of the activities of ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO ASD or ONI that does not affect Australians;
- reviewing the rules made under section 15 of the IS Act (to protect privacy of Australians);
- conducting inquiries into individual compliants about the activities of ASIO, ASIS, AGO, DIO, ASD or ONI;
- reviewing the content of, or conclusions reached in, assessments or reports made by DIO or ONI, or reviewing the sources of information on which such assessments or reports are based;
- reviewing the coordination and evaluation activities undertaken by ONI;
- reviewing sensitive operational information or operational methods available to the AFP; or
- reviewing particular operations or investigations that have been, are being or are proposed to be undertaken by the AFP.
Section 31 of the IS Act requires the Committee to prepare and table an Annual Report as soon as practicable after each year ending 30 June.
The Committee is also required to conduct statutory reviews under other legislation.
The Telecommunications Act 1997 requires the Committee to review the operation of Part 14 of that Act, to the extent that it was amended by the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms). The review must start by 18 September 2020 and be concluded by 18 September 2021.
The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 requires the Committee to begin a review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of that Act by 11 July 2021.
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 requires the Committee to, by 10 December 2021, begin a review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of the foreign influence transparency scheme and report its comments and recommendations to Parliament as soon as practicable after completing the review.
Under section 102.1A of the Criminal Code, the Committee may also review any regulations made for the listing (or re-listing) of a "terrorist organisation" and report the Committee's comments and recommendations to each House of the Parliament before the end of the applicable disallowance period (15 sitting days after the regulation was laid before that House).
Further, the Committee may review and report on the declaration of any terrorist organisation for the purposes of section 35AA of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.
Under the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010, the Committee may refer any matter to the National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) that the Committee becomes aware of in the course of performing its functions under s 29(1) of the IS Act, and considers should be referred to the INSLM.
The Committee is otherwise not authorised to initiate its own references, but may resolve to request that the responsible Minister refer a particular matter for it to review and, on occasion, is called upon by an appropriate Minister to conduct reviews of national security policy. To date three policy inquiries have been referred to the Committee:
- Inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press: report tabled 26 August 2020;
- Inquiry into national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector - inquiry ongoing referred 2 November 2020
- Inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia – inquiry ongoing referred 9 December 2020