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House of Representatives

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment Bill 1999 (Extracts Only)

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General, the Honourable Daryl Williams AM QC MP)


This Bill amends the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 (the ASIO Act), the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (the FTR Act), the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 (the IGIS Act), the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (the TAA Act) and makes minor consequential amendments to other Acts arising from the change in spelling of 'Organization' in the title of ASIO. The amendments are intended to enable ASIO to utilise available technology and to access important sources of information in performing its statutory functions.

The amendments made by the Bill to the ASIO Act may be summarised as:

allowing the Minister to issue warrants which may authorise ASIO to:

remotely access data that is relevant to security and is stored in a computer specified in the warrant;
use a tracking device to assist the Organisation in collecting intelligence relevant to security; or
examine an article being delivered by a delivery service provider.

providing ASIO with authority to enter premises for the purpose of removing a listening device or a tracking device which has been installed under warrant;
amending provisions dealing with search warrants to:

simplify the description of the matters about which the Minister must be satisfied before issuing a warrant;
clarify ASIO's authority to use a computer found on the premises being searched;
extend the maximum period a warrant may remain in force from 7 to 28 days; and
permit the Minister to defer the commencement of a warrant for up to 28 days;

amending provisions dealing with the collection of foreign intelligence in Australia by making provision for the new categories of warrant introduced in the Bill and allowing the Minister to authorise ASIO to collect such intelligence by means that do not require the authority of a warrant, such as human sources;
extending the authority of the Director-General of Security to issue certain warrants in an emergency;
allowing the Director-General of Security to charge fees to recover the cost of providing advice or services to persons at their request;
permitting ASIO to communicate security assessments in relation to the 2000 Olympics or Paralympics directly to State authorities;
simplifying the communication of criminal intelligence given to ASIO by overseas partner agencies to Australian law enforcement agencies;
providing for the making of regulations which will permit review bodies to consider decisions affecting former staff as well as current employees and allow immunity from civil proceedings to be conferred on review bodies;
revising the penalty provisions in the ASIO Act so that pecuniary penalties may be calculated according to the relevant formula in the Crimes Act 1914 ; and
changing the spelling of 'Organization' in the title of ASIO to 'Organisation'.

The amendments to the FTR Act contained in Schedule 4 will give ASIO access to FTR information held by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). The Bill allows the Director of AUSTRAC to authorise ASIO to have access to FTR information for the purpose of performing ASIO's functions. The authorisation is to state the FTR information or class of FTR information to which ASIO has access. Provision is also made for the responsibilities of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security in relation to ASIO.

The amendments to the IGIS Act contained in Schedule 5 will:

make the monitoring role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (the Inspector-General) explicit;
allow the Inspector-General to remove taxation and identifying financial transaction reports information from his reports to Ministers;
streamline clearance procedures when providing a written response to a complainant; and
permit disclosure of information by the Inspector-General if the safety of a person may be at risk.

This Bill will amend the TAA Act (Schedule 6) to allow the Commissioner of Taxation to disclose tax information, with safeguards, to the Director-General of Security or persons employed under paragraphs 84(1)(a) or (b) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (ASIO officers) provided the Commissioner is satisfied that the information is relevant to the performance of ASIO's functions under subsection 17(1) of that Act.

The amendments will give ASIO officers similar access to taxation information as law enforcement agencies now have under the Act. The amendments will allow ASIO officers to record and divulge or communicate the information in specified circumstances to law enforcement agencies and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security or one of his officers in specified circumstances.

Financial Impact

It is not expected that the Bill will have a direct financial impact.

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