Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation:
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The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently undertaking an Inquiry into potential reforms of national security legislation. Amongst the reforms, are proposals to: expand the basis of telecommunication interception activities; simplify information sharing between agencies; and expand the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) warrant provisions. In this submission, PIAC expresses concern about the lack of any clear, persuasive rationale for the impingement that the proposed reforms would have on fundamental human rights, such as the right to privacy. There is also scant detail provided in the Discussion Paper accompanying the Inquiry’s terms of reference, on what a revised accountability framework would look like. PIAC anticipates further consultation on concrete reform proposals that arise from the Discussion Paper. PIAC also urges the executive to provide a human rights impact analysis of any proposed new legislation.
The submission makes some specific comments on the reform proposals. These reflect PIAC’s ongoing concern that national security legislation suffers from a lack of transparency and fails to establish adequate mechanisms of accountability, oversight and review. PIAC warns that telephone interception involves serious invasions of privacy. PIAC states that information-sharing proposals between the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, require clear, public justification, given the dangers of vesting one body with both law enforcement powers, and intelligence and surveillance functions. The submission also urges reconsideration of proposals that seek to extend warrant time limits; allow incursions on third party property; and erode the personal accountability of ASIO officers able to execute warrants.