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

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Special Minister of State) (12:25): I want to thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate on the Office of National Intelligence Bill 2018 and the Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018. As the 2017 Independent intelligence review noted, the challenges faced by our intelligence community will intensify over the coming decade. In a rapidly changing world, Australia's intelligence architecture needs to change too. Our intelligence agencies need to be positioned to respond to the next conflict, the next terrorist threat or the next technological innovation. Whatever comes our way, we need to be ready.

Our national intelligence community agencies demonstrate excellence, but, as the 2017 Independent intelligence review stated:

These forces of change are challenging the structures in place for co-ordinating the activities of our intelligence agencies.

That is why the reviewers recommend the establishment of an office of national intelligence, and that is why the passage of these bills is so important.

ONI's leadership function and the requirement in the bill that it perform this function in ways that promote the appropriate integration of intelligence capabilities across the national intelligence community will go a long way to achieving greater coordination. ONI will also be responsible for providing advice to the Prime Minister on national intelligence priorities, requirements and capabilities, and matters relating to the national intelligence community as a whole. Further extending ONI's assessment and evaluation functions and its ability to cooperate with other national intelligence community agencies will enable ONI to better support the work of others. The positioning of the Director-General of National Intelligence as the head of the national intelligence community, with the responsibility of keeping the Prime Minister informed on matters relating to intelligence, will enhance this coordination.

The Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 makes amendments to a number of acts to support the proposed operation of the ONI bill. Though many of these amendments simply reflect the transition of the office of national assessments to the ONI by updating references and other legislation, other more substantive amendments will provide important functionality to the new organisation. Some amendments will improve the ability of other national intelligence community agencies to cooperate or share information with the Office of National Intelligence. Some will enhance oversight; others will enable ONI officers to better perform their functions by accessing and assuming identities regimes.

All in all, these arrangements, along with transitional provisions, will ensure that the ONI is able to function effectively from its establishment. The Office of National Intelligence (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 contains a number of other measures to support the operation of ONI and the Director-General of National Intelligence, including directions and guidelines powers, access to information provisions, secrecy provisions, the continuation of the national assessments board, and privacy rules to protect Australians.

I'd like to thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for their detailed consideration of the bills. The work of the PJCIS has led to four government amendments which fully implement the committee's recommendations and will be tabled shortly. In particular, the committee consideration has contributed to enhanced transparency provisions being incorporated in relation to the privacy rules, and I want to thank the PJCIS for their deliberations. I also thank my colleagues from both chambers and all sides of the chamber for recognising all of these important needs.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.