House of Representatives Speech- Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014

I am very happy to provide a direct answer, as always, to the question of the member for Stirling. To put the question in some context, it is important to note that all irregular maritime arrivals being considered for release into the community, either on a bridging visa or into community detention, are subject to ASIO security checks. These checks are undertaken to identify the visa applicants or visa holders whose entry into or continued stay in Australia may present a risk to national security, and ASIO provides advice to DIAC in respect of security as defined in the ASIO Act. Threats to security can include politically motivated violence, espionage, foreign interference and threats to Australia's territorial and border integrity. ASIO does not provide security advice in respect of criminal matters.

I am very happy to provide a direct answer, as always, to the question of the member for Stirling. To put the question in some context, it is important to note that all irregular maritime arrivals being considered for release into the community, either on a bridging visa or into community detention, are subject to ASIO security checks. These checks are undertaken to identify the visa applicants or visa holders whose entry into or continued stay in Australia may present a risk to national security, and ASIO provides advice to DIAC in respect of security as defined in the ASIO Act. Threats to security can include politically motivated violence, espionage, foreign interference and threats to Australia's territorial and border integrity. ASIO does not provide security advice in respect of criminal matters.

Prior to being placed in community detention or being released into the community on a bridging visa, irregular maritime arrivals undergo a security check against intelligence holdings. Those intelligence holdings would include DIAC and ASIO information on persons of possible national security and criminal interest, Interpol red notices, other identities of interest, and fraudulent and stolen travel documents. Positive matches from the checking process are assessed by DIAC in consultation with other stakeholders to determine if the person's application, entry or ability to remain in Australia should be refused. I mention that just to show the interaction between the security checking done by ASIO and the processes undertaken by DIAC.

Irregular maritime arrivals who are assessed as being owed protection and who are applying for permanent visas are referred to ASIO for a security assessment based on multiple sources of information, including—but not limited to—client entry interviews and protection applications. That assessment can be quite comprehensive and lengthy, depending on the circumstances of the client. It is of course the case—and this is provided for in the ASIO Act—that individuals who are assessed to be a direct or indirect risk to national security are issued with an adverse security assessment.

I know that the opposition are very keen on the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I thought it might be worth reminding members of the comments made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in its report tabled on 27 May. They had occasion, in their report, to look specifically at the process being followed by ASIO in relation to assessments. First of all, they set out what they had said in their 2012 report. In that report, the parliamentary joint committee said:

The Committee takes very seriously the concerns put before it by various refugee and asylum seeker advocacy groups but it also recognises that the job ASIO has is a very difficult one. Therefore, the Committee welcomes the efforts, introduced by ASIO on 1 March 2011, to streamline the process of security assessments in an attempt to clear the backlog and to process future assessments in less time—

and this is the significant part—

The Committee is satisfied that the current regime for visa security assessments is the correct one.

That formed part of a report tabled by the joint committee—a bipartisan report, I might add—on 18 June 2012.

In the report they have just tabled, they repeated that comment from 2012. Then, at paragraph 2.64 of this year's report, tabled on 27 May, they said:

The Committee—

and again I repeat that it is a bipartisan committee—

has received no evidence to cause it to adjust this assessment of the current regime for visa security assessments.

To remind everyone, this is a committee which includes a former Liberal Attorney-General, the member for Berowra, and the present spokesman on legal matters, Senator Brandis.