Bret Walker SC, representing the Law Council of Australia as chair of its constitutional law committee, has appeared before a parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security today to urge the government to adopt all the recommendations of a 2017 report in new law reforms. This includes establishing a centralised, specialised oversight of the national intelligence community in its entirety — 10 commonwealth agencies in total.
According to the council, the proposed Intelligence Oversight and Other Legislation Amendment (Integrity Measures) Bill 2020 expands oversight functions of the the inspector general of intelligence and security (IGIS) and the parliamentary joint committee to two organisations: the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
Eight other agencies should also come under the purview of the IGIS, the peak body for lawyers recommends, including the Australian Federal Police, and the Department of Home Affairs.
“[This change is integral to the very concept of this community as a single, national enterprise, constituted by a ‘federation’ of agencies who work closely together in collecting, analysing and disseminating intelligence,” the Law Council said.
“These agencies are, themselves, strengthening their collaboration and interoperability with each other, including the frequent utilisation of joint operations. The relevant oversight architecture should follow suit.”
The Law Council added that any expanded oversight in the Bill should be restricted to the agencies’ intelligence-related functions and that it offered its broad support for the measures in the bill.
Other changes the council would like to see adopted include changing outdated provisions of the IGIS Act, and to confer powers on the IGS to share information with the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) about matters within their concurrent jurisdiction.
Mr Walker said that expanding the oversight functions of the IGIS and the parliamentary committee was consistent with the important recommendations of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review report.
“The Law Council recommends that the [parliamentary committee] accept the recommendation from the IIR in full,” the council said.