Office of National Intelligence Bill 2018 and the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018

Parliament House, Canberra.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (12:10):  Labor supports the Office of National Intelligence Bill 2018 and the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018. These two bills will implement a number of the recommendations of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review, conducted by Michael L'Estrange and Stephen Merchant, by establishing the Office of National Intelligence, or ONI, which is to be led by the Director-General of National Intelligence.

The Office of National Intelligence will be responsible for leading Australia's national intelligence agencies. While the new Director-General of National Intelligence will not be empowered to direct the specific activities of agencies, he or she will be able to direct the coordination of agencies to ensure there are appropriately integrated strategies across the suite of agency capabilities. The Director-General of National Intelligence will also be tasked with keeping the Prime Minister informed on matters relating to Australia's intelligence agencies.

Each of Australia's Five Eyes partners currently has a single point of coordination for its intelligence agencies, and this is what the Office of National Intelligence will provide for Australia. In addition to its leadership role, the Office of National Intelligence will replace the Office of National Assessments and be responsible for preparing strategic assessments and reports in relation to international and domestic matters that are of political, strategic or economic significance to Australia. As is the case with the Office of National Assessments, those assessments and reports will be prepared on the basis of information that is collected from publicly available sources. This marks an extension of the ONA's existing assessment and evaluation function, which is currently limited exclusively to international matters.

Labor also supports the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018, which repeals the Office of National Assessments Act 1977 and makes a series of consequential amendments to other acts to reflect the proposed operation of the Office of National Intelligence.

The bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security looked carefully at these two bills and recommended four improvements, each of which was accepted by the government. The amendments tabled by the government yesterday give effect to the committee's recommendations. Among other things, those amendments will ensure that the Privacy Commissioner is directly involved in drafting the ONI's privacy rules and that those rules are made publicly available on ONI's website.

Since 2014, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has considered 15 substantive national security bills and made over 300 recommendations for amendment, all of which have been accepted by the government. I commend my parliamentary colleagues on the committee—Labor, Liberal and National—for their careful, considered and bipartisan approach to these two bills and for recommending a number of improvements. This is how national security issues should be dealt with, and that is how national security issues have been dealt with in recent history.

In that spirit, I urge the government to work with Labor to implement two of the other recommendations that were made by Michael L'Estrange and Stephen Merchant in the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review in relation to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Strong and effective oversight does not undermine our national security community; it enhances it. Public trust and confidence in our security and intelligence agencies are best ensured through strong and rigorous oversight and scrutiny. Australia has a unique configuration of oversight that spans the parliamentary, judicial and executive branches of government. Institutions, such as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, have complementary functions. Labor's existing proposal for reform of the committee recognises and maintains these arrangements.

The proposal is embodied in the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Amendment Bill 2015, which is presently before the Senate. This bill arose out of work done by former Senator John Faulkner and others, and contains a suite of measures designed to ensure that the committee has the powers it needs to acquit its duties to the parliament and the Australian people.

As it happens, the substance of Labor's proposals was largely adopted in recommendations 21 and 23 of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review. However, despite receiving the review well over a year ago, and despite the fact that the government has said that it will implement the recommendations of the Independent Intelligence Review, the government has yet to act on these two recommendations. So, while Labor is pleased that the government has now acted on Mr L'Estrange's and Mr Merchant's recommendation to establish an office of national intelligence, there is more work to be done. I commend the bills to the House.