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Review of national intelligence legislation

Media Release

The Turnbull Government will undertake the most significant review of intelligence legislation in more than 40 years.

Former Director General of Security, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Dennis Richardson AO, will head the Review, which will examine the legal framework underpinning Australia’s intelligence community and capability.

This will be the most comprehensive review of intelligence legislation in Australia since the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security in the 1970s.

The Review was a key recommendation of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review conducted by Michael L’Estrange AO and Stephen Merchant PSM.

The legislative framework governing our intelligence agencies has evolved considerably since the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001 were first introduced.

The Coalition Government has so far passed 10 tranches of legislative reforms to properly equip our security agencies with the legal framework they need to respond to current and emerging security challenges. The eleventh tranche of legislation to modernise espionage offences and establish new foreign interference offences is currently before the Parliament.

The national security environment is constantly changing and it is essential that we ensure our agencies have the tools and framework they need to be effective and meet their core function – keeping Australians safe.

The Review will consider options for harmonising and modernising the legislative framework that governs the activities of our intelligence agencies to ensure they operate with clear, coherent and consistent powers, protections and oversight.

Mr Richardson is ideally-placed to undertake this important review, having an extensive career in the Australian public service, particularly in the national security, defence and foreign affairs environment. He was Secretary of the Department of Defence from 2012 to 2017; Director-General of ASIO from 1996 to 2005; Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2010-2012 prior to which he was Australia’s Ambassador to the United States.

In addition to intelligence agencies, the Review will consider the legislative frameworks for the intelligence functions of the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Federal Police, Australian Transactional Report Analysis Centre and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. This is consistent with the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review’s recommendation to consolidate and expand linkages between members of the national intelligence community.

Terms of Reference for the Review will be announced in the near future. It is expected the Review will be completed within 18 months.