The Director-General of Security is the accountable authority for ASIO under the PGPA Act. Our corporate governance committees supported the Director-General during this reporting period to fulfil his responsibilities under the PGPA Act.
ASIO Executive Board
The Executive Board is the peak advisory committee to the Director-General. Its membership comprises the Director-General, the Deputy Directors-General and an external member.
The board met on a monthly basis during this reporting period, setting the overall strategic direction for ASIO and overseeing the management of resources. It received regular reporting from our corporate committees on matters such as developments in the security environment, our budget, capability development and risk management, as well as progress toward our ASIO2020 and diversity and inclusion goals.
Intelligence Coordination Committee
The Intelligence Coordination Committee supported the Director-General through its management of ASIO’s security intelligence program. During this reporting period the committee provided strategic direction for our intelligence programs, managed risks, coordinated efforts across work areas, evaluated intelligence performance, reviewed intelligence capability programs and providing guidance on priorities for our investment program.
The committee was chaired by our Deputy Director-General for Counter-Terrorism.
Workforce Capability Committee
The Workforce Capability Committee’s focus during this reporting period was ensuring our workforce was sufficiently sized, skilled, equipped and accommodated to meet the current and future needs of the Organisation. The Work Health and Safety Committee was a subcommittee responsible for ensuring better health and safety policies and practices across ASIO (refer ‘Work health and safety’).
The committee was chaired by the Deputy Director-General for Strategy.
The Security Committee provided advice to the Executive Board on the evolving security environment and matters relating to the security of our operational activities, people, property and information technology. It also approved revised security policies and procedures and reviewed our compliance with Australian government security standards.
The committee was chaired by the Deputy Director-General for Strategy.
The Finance Committee provided advice to the Executive Board on financial strategy, resource allocation within ASIO, accommodation and assets.
The committee was chaired by the Deputy Director-General for Strategy.
Audit and Risk Committee
In line with the requirements of section 45 of the PGPA Act, the Director-General established the Audit and Risk Committee. During this reporting period, the committee provided independent assurance and advice to the Director-General and the Executive Board on our financial and performance reporting responsibilities, risk oversight and management, and system of internal control.
The committee had four external members including an external chair, as well as observers from the Australian National Audit Office.
Fraud control and management
Our Fraud Management Group continued to oversee fraud control and management arrangements within ASIO, reporting to the Audit and Risk Committee. There were no allegations of fraud received during this reporting period.
During 2017, we completed the annual assurance mapping process, which examined all internal controls and assurance-related activities across ASIO. No new fraud risks were identified during this review, and existing risks, which are captured in the current fraud risk assessment, continued to be appropriately addressed through our security regimes, financial controls and human resource frameworks.
The ASIO Fraud Control Framework 2016–18, outlines our fraud control and management arrangements.
2017 review of governance arrangements
We conducted a review of our governance arrangements during the reporting period, with a new committee structure and reporting arrangements developed to strengthen our oversight of performance and risk management. The new arrangements will be implemented during the 2017–18 reporting period.
ASIO’s ministerial accountability during this reporting period was to the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC. We conduct our security intelligence activities in accordance with the Attorney-General’s Guidelines. The guidelines stipulate that our activities must be conducted in a lawful, timely and efficient manner, applying the principle of proportionality—that is, the methods used to investigate a person must be proportional to the threat posed—to ensure the least intrusion necessary into an individual’s privacy. The guidelines are currently being reviewed by AGD following a recommendation by the PJCIS, and we contributed to the review during this reporting period.
The Attorney-General issues all warrants for ASIO to employ its special powers, other than questioning warrants and questioning and detention warrants which are issued by an ‘issuing authority’. If we judge that a warrant is required, the Director-General presents a warrant request to the Attorney-General. Most warrant requests are independently reviewed by AGD before progressing to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General considers the request and, if in agreement, issues the warrant. For every warrant issued, we must report to the Attorney-General on the extent to which the warrant assisted us in carrying out our functions.
We keep the Attorney-General informed of significant national security developments, as well as other important issues affecting ASIO. During this reporting period, we provided advice to the Attorney-General on a range of investigative, operational and administrative issues, primarily communicated through 288 formal submissions. The Director-General also briefed other ministers on security issues and matters relevant to their portfolios, when required.
Engagement with parliament
Leader of the Opposition
The Director-General of Security is a statutory position, with a responsibility to provide impartial advice. The ASIO Act requires the Director-General to regularly brief the Leader of the Opposition on matters relating to security and provide them with a copy of ASIO’s classified annual report. Throughout 2016–17, with the Attorney-General’s knowledge, classified briefings on specific security cases were provided for shadow ministers.
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
The PJCIS plays a significant role in our oversight and accountability framework. Its annual review of administration and expenditure scrutinises the non-operational aspects of our work, particularly the effectiveness of our policies, governance and expenditure. The PJCIS also conducts inquiries into other matters relating to the intelligence agencies, as referred by the government or the parliament. The PJCIS reviews the listing of terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code Act 1995 and key national security legislation.
During this reporting period, we made a submission to and appeared before the PJCIS to support its review of the re-listing of six terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code and ISIL being declared as a terrorist organisation under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. In early 2017, we appeared before the committee for its review of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, for which we provided a classified submission. We also appeared before the PJCIS in closed and public hearings for its Review of Administration and Expenditure no. 15 (2015–16), providing a classified and an unclassified submission.
A key focus for the PJCIS in the latter part of 2016–17 was its review of our questioning and detention powers. We provided the committee with a classified and unclassified submission, a classified and unclassified supplementary submission, and classified and unclassified answers to written questions from the committee, as well as appearing before PJCIS hearings in relation to this matter. The review was ongoing at the end of this reporting period.
The PJCIS’s recommendations from its inquiries are reported to each House of the parliament and to the responsible minister. Our evidence to the PJCIS can be found on the relevant inquiry page on the committee’s website.
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
We appeared before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee as part of the Senate Estimates process on 18 October 2016, 28 February 2017 and 25 May 2017. Our evidence to the committee can be found in the estimates Hansard for those days (refer www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Senate_Estimates and navigate to the relevant hearing).
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
The Hon. Margaret Stone was appointed as IGIS in August 2015. The role of the IGIS is to review the activities of the AIC and provide assurance that agencies operate with propriety, according to law, consistent with ministerial guidelines and directives, and with due regard for human rights. The IGIS has powers akin to a standing royal commission.
During 2016–17, the IGIS undertook a regular inspection program of activities across our operational functions and investigated complaints received by her office. There were no formal inquiries or release of any reports of inquiries making findings in relation to ASIO. Details of the ongoing inspection work of the IGIS can be found in her annual report, available online from www.igis.gov.au.
Independent National Security Legislation Monitor
The acting INSLM, Dr James Renwick SC, was appointed on 13 February 2017. He replaced the Hon. Roger Gyles AO QC, who held the role from 20 August 2015 until 31 October 2016. The INSLM’s role is to review the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation, and report to the Prime Minister and the parliament, on an ongoing basis.
During 2016–17, we made submissions to the INSLM in relation to the following inquiries:
- certain questioning and questioning and detention powers in relation to terrorism; and
- the 2017 statutory review of Division 3A of Part IAA of the Crimes Act (Stop, Search & Seize powers), subsections 119.2 and 119.3 of the Criminal Code (Declared Areas), and Divisions 104 and 105 of the Criminal Code (Control Orders & Preventive Detention Orders) including the interoperability of the control order regime and the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Act 2016.
ASIO representatives attended the public and private hearings on these matters.
Our unclassified submissions to the INSLM and evidence given at public hearings can be found on the relevant inquiry page on the INSLM’s website: www.inslm.gov.au.
Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments
The role of the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments is to conduct an independent advisory review of ASIO adverse security assessments furnished to the DIBP for persons who remain in immigration detention, having been found by the department to be owed protection obligations under international law and to be ineligible for a permanent protection visa, or who have had their permanent protection visa cancelled because they are the subject of an adverse security assessment. The Independent Reviewer conducts an initial primary review of each adverse security assessment and subsequent periodic reviews every 12 months for the duration of the adverse assessment.
ASIO also undertakes internal reviews of adverse security assessments of our own volition and, over time, those internal reviews have resulted in a number of adverse assessments being replaced with a qualified or non-prejudicial assessment. As a result, those cases no longer come within the Independent Reviewer’s terms of reference.
In performing their task, the Independent Reviewer has access to all materials relied on by ASIO to make their assessment and any information obtained by ASIO since the adverse security assessment was completed or provided to the Independent Reviewer by the applicant or their legal representatives. Particularly for periodic reviews, the Independent Reviewer closely considers the overall security environment, which is informed by ASIO’s contemporary assessment of security threats, and any changes to the applicant’s circumstances or ideology during their time in detention.
Significant legal matters impacting on ASIO’s business
Tribunal reviews—security assessments
Over this reporting period, ASIO managed 20 adverse security assessment reviews before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, including those relating to cancelled passports, visas and security clearances. Of these:
- six applicants withdrew their applications at various stages;
- five matters were pending at the end of this reporting period;
- five assessments were remitted back to ASIO by consent for new assessments to be prepared, which resulted in four non-prejudicial assessments being issued in this reporting period, and the fifth remains under reconsideration;
- two applications were dismissed for non-compliance;
- one matter was heard and its decision remained reserved at the end of this reporting period; and
- one review was stayed.
Judicial reviews—security assessments
Two further security assessments were reviewed in the Federal Court of Australia during this reporting period. Both applicants challenged the legal reasonableness of the assessments and our compliance with our security assessment policies, and alleged they had been denied procedural fairness during the making of the assessments.
BSX15 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Director-General of Security  FCA 1432
We assessed that BSX15, who had entered Australia as an irregular maritime arrival and claimed refugee status, was a member of ISIL and posed a risk to Australia’s security. The court (heard by Justice Markovic) held that the applicant was not denied procedural fairness at his security assessment interviews because the purpose of the interviews was clearly explained and the applicant was given the opportunity to answer questions as fulsomely as he wished. On 25 May 2017, the applicant appealed the decision to the Full Federal Court, and the decision was reserved at the end of this reporting period.
El Ossman v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Director-General of Security  FCA 636
We assessed that the applicant, a Lebanese national who entered Australia on a tourism then spousal visa, was a member of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and posed a risk to Australia’s security. During an interlocutory hearing, the Court (heard by Justice Wigney) upheld the Director-General’s public interest immunity claim over some classified information. On 6 June 2017, the court held that the applicant had been denied procedural fairness during the security assessment interview, and set aside the security assessment. The court dismissed the applicant’s unreasonableness and policy non-compliance challenges.
In light of these judicial findings, we introduced staff training and reviewed our processes to ensure they appropriately balanced the protection of sensitive classified information with the requirement to afford individuals procedural fairness.
Inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Café siege
On 24 May 2017, the New South Wales State Coroner concluded the inquest into the deaths of Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson and Man Haron Monis at the Lindt Cafe in December 2014. We cooperated with the inquest and six of our employees gave evidence in closed court proceedings in December 2015 and September 2016.
The coroner concluded that:
- our 2008 investigation of Mr Monis was ‘balanced, comprehensive and appropriate in the circumstances’;
- the subsequent assessments we conducted relating to Mr Monis, and our consideration of him, were adequate and appropriate; and
- our treatment and management of the National Security Hotline reports in the period of their first receipt and the siege, including their triage, was adequate and appropriate.
The coroner also found that two significant aspects of our politically motivated violence risk assessment process (relating to triaging leads and the criteria used for assessing politically motivated violence) required recalibration, and that there were several examples of information that we ought to have shared with the New South Wales Police Force.
The coroner’s recommendations relating to ASIO included that:
- the Commonwealth Attorney-General should liaise with ASIO to develop a policy to ensure that correspondence relevant to security be referred to ASIO and a fixated threat assessment centre;
- the Commonwealth Attorney-General and ASIO should confer with the Australian Psychological Society to enable psychologists to report risks of a terrorist nature; and
- the Premier of New South Wales should consider whether legislation can be amended to ensure that ASIO has appropriate access to information.
We accepted the coroner’s conclusions and have commenced work with relevant agencies to implement the recommendations relating to ASIO.
Ahmed Numan Haider: Victorian coronial inquest
On 23 September 2014, Mr Haider was fatally shot by a member of Victoria Police. ASIO cooperated with the coronial investigation and provided the coroner with relevant material. Four ASIO witnesses gave evidence at the inquest. The coroner released his findings on 31 July 2017 and made no substantive adverse findings or recommendations for ASIO.
2017 Independent Intelligence Review
In 2016–17, the Prime Minister commissioned Professor Michael L’Estrange AO and Mr Stephen Merchant PSM to undertake an independent review of the AIC. Their review, was finalised and submitted to the Prime Minister at the end of this reporting period.
We provided one major submission and five supplementary submissions to the review, and supported its work by seconding a senior officer to the review team and providing advice in response to requests for information.
The review found that Australia’s intelligence agencies were highly capable and staffed by skilled officers of great integrity. The review made 23 recommendations to strengthen the AIC’s structural, resourcing, capability, legislative and oversight arrangements.
We supported the recommendations of the review. Since the public release of the review by the Prime Minister in July 2017, we have contributed to whole-of-government work to implement the recommendations of the review as well as to establish the new Home Affairs portfolio, which was also announced by the Prime Minister at the time of releasing the review.
Management of human resources
We continued during this reporting period to effectively manage and develop a highly capable workforce, facing significant security challenges in a complex operating environment. We further strengthened our recruitment arrangements to ensure that we continue to attract and effectively develop the people required for ASIO to continue to meet its objectives. We provided extensive training and development opportunities for staff, which were consistently rated highly by participants. We also assessed our workforce at all levels through a performance management framework that evaluated capability and performance, and provided pathways to further develop staff capabilities.
In 2016–17, we achieved a net growth of 59 staff. As of 30 June 2017, we employed 1794.3 full-time equivalent staff (refer Appendix C). Our separation rate at that time was 5.26 per cent.
During this reporting period, our focus was on recruiting difficult-to-fill intelligence, analytical, technical and information technology roles. To improve our ability to attract quality applicants, to meet our ongoing growth and people capability requirements and to ensure we continued to be an employer of choice, we:
- reviewed our selection and assessment methodologies for our graduate and trainee programs;
- undertook quantitative and qualitative market research into graduate employment preferences and ASIO’s recruitment and marketing programs, which informed revisions to our recruitment marketing materials and the renewal of our website content; and
- commenced a review of our advertising and marketing strategies, including examining options to make better use of social media platforms for recruitment activity and marketing.
During this reporting period, ASIO provided a broad and expanding range of personal and professional development opportunities for staff to meet the diverse needs of our workforce, informed by the findings of a training review commissioned by the Director-General in 2014–15.
- we approved or conducted 146 training courses, with 4256 face-to-face training activities attended by 1387 staff;
- Our staff completed 2839 mandatory and 1928 non-mandatory e-learning courses;
- we allocated $337 804 to 115 staff attending over 70 ASIO-supported study programs;
- we allocated $181 375 to 16 domestic and six international development opportunities attended by 19 members of ASIO’s Senior Executive Service; and
- we allocated $291 661 to 34 employees under the Language Skills Development Program.
Our training programs were delivered by in-house learning and development and subject matter experts, as well as external training providers. We continued to review, evaluate and update programs as part of our focus on continuous improvement and alignment of training with ASIO’s objectives. The consistently positive feedback received from course participants and their line managers indicated that ASIO was effectively developing employees to perform the various roles which contribute to achieving our purpose.
Workforce and performance management
We reinforced our high-performance culture by enhancing the link between salary advancement and performance outcomes. Building on reforms implemented during 2015–16, we formalised the requirement for managers and employees to hold performance discussions and agree on performance expectations at the beginning of the performance cycle. These discussions provided the basis for developing staff and organisational capabilities by identifying capability needs and agreeing on training or other development programs to address those needs.
In 2016–17, we refreshed our career management framework and commenced a comprehensive review of the skills and capabilities required in our intelligence, technical, information and corporate roles. The objective of this work is to:
- assist individuals in their career planning;
- assist work areas in managing their capability needs;
- support skills gap analysis;
- support ASIO in its strategic workforce planning;
- inform recruitment targeting; and
- inform training needs and programming.
We are working to finalise our career management framework update and competency mapping by the end of 2017–18.
Diversity and inclusion
ASIO is committed to building a productive, innovative, capable and inclusive workforce that values difference and creates an environment where staff are supported in reaching their full potential.
In 2016–17, we undertook a range of work to support this vision, including:
- establishing a new corporate committee to oversee the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives, which is chaired by our Deputy Director-General for Strategy and reports to our Executive Board;
- continuing the development of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, to provide the framework for our program and alignment with existing actions and initiatives; and
- establishing an Executive Level 2 position dedicated to advancing ASIO’s diversity and inclusion strategy and initiatives.
We launched our Gender Equity Bold Goals program, which reinforced our commitment to achieving gender equity across all levels of ASIO by 2020. Within this program, we:
- introduced the first stage of an ‘if not, why not’ approach to flexible working;
- specified a shortlisting ratio of 40 per cent female, 40 per cent male and 20 per cent of either gender for promotion rounds at Executive Level 1 and above;
- delivered unconscious bias training to senior executive officers and key functional areas;
- internally publicised detailed gender metrics for ASIO promotion, transfer and recruitment rounds;
- established our membership with the Diversity Council of Australia; and
- appointed a Senior Executive Service Band 2 officer as ASIO’s Male Champions of Change Implementation Leader.
In 2016–17, we also provided opportunities for staff to broaden their understanding and awareness with presentations on gender equity issues by individuals including Her Excellency Menna Rawlings CMG, British High Commissioner to Australia, and Annabel Crabb, journalist, author and television presenter and commentator.
Statistics on the diversity of our workforce are provided at Appendix C.
We continued to operate under our 10th Workplace Agreement, which was agreed in 2016 and concludes in 2019. The agreement meets our requirements under the ASIO Act to adopt the employment principles of the Australian Public Service, when these are consistent with the effective performance of the Organisation.
The ASIO Ombudsman is an external service provider who works to resolve staff issues or concerns impartially and informally, through advice, consultation and mediation.
The ASIO Ombudsman met regularly with our senior management and representatives of the ASIO Staff Association to discuss the health of the workplace.
The ASIO Ombudsman provided valuable support and advice to employees and line managers. During this reporting year, the ASIO Ombudsman:
- provided advice and guidance in response to 23 informal contacts from staff;
- carried out four investigations related to the Code of Conduct;
- provided formal advice based on investigations into one additional matter; and
- provided assistance in relation to an IGIS inquiry.
The ASIO Ombudsman provided a valuable source of advice on the development and formulation of human resources policy. In addition, senior ASIO managers drew on the unique skills and experience of the ASIO Ombudsman to inform their decision-making on the application of policy.
In 2016–17, the ASIO Ombudsman did not participate in any work related to public interest disclosures.
Work health and safety
Our annual performance statement addresses the WHS matters we are required to address in our annual report under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Since 1994, non-corporate Australian Government entities have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin.
These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, entities have not been required to report on these functions.
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been replaced by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with a disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014, and can be found at www.dss.gov.au.
Appendix C provides information on the diversity of our workforce, including statistics in relation to people with a disability.
Property and procurement
The Ben Chifley Building continued to support the evolving business and capability needs of ASIO and our partners. The corporate suites, including Australia’s largest security-accredited auditorium, hosted a range of activities and events including briefings, industry forums and ministerial addresses. In 2016–17, the corporate suites were booked on 1506 occasions and received more than 5000 external visitors.
We are committed to reducing ASIO’s carbon footprint and improving our environmental performance. In 2016–17 we participated in the 10th consecutive Earth Hour event and:
- reduced our total energy consumption by 255 534 kilowatt hours through the use of solar panels, saving approximately $34 500 and 234 tonnes of carbon emissions;
- produced 52 100 kilowatt hours of electricity by a gas-fired co-generator plant, reducing grid electricity costs by a further $7050 and saving 45.3 tonnes in carbon emissions;
- used 21 986 kilolitres of captured stormwater for irrigation and toilet flushing, reducing reliance on potable water and bore water and saving approximately $114 900 of potable water costs;
- recycled 15 899 kilograms of waste, including paper products, printer toner cartridges, batteries, scrap metal and fluorescent light tubes; and
- increased efficiencies in our data centre through temperature adjustment and installation of blanking panels to reduce energy consumption and decrease maintenance requirements.
Throughout 2016–17 we adhered to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and associated policy and guidelines. Our compliance was monitored through our Audit and Risk Committee and Finance Committee. No significant issues were identified and overall compliance was acceptable.
ASIO supports small business participation in the Australian Government procurement market. Small- and medium-sized enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website.
Our procurement practices that support small- and medium-sized enterprises include:
- standardising contract and approach-to-market templates which use clear and simple language;
- ensuring information is easily accessible through electronic advertisement of business opportunities and electronic submission for responses; and
- using electronic systems to facilitate the Department of Finance’s ‘Procurement On-Time Payment Policy for Small Businesses’, including payment cards.
We recognise the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the survey of Australian government payment to small business are available on The Treasury’s website.
We entered into 28 new consultancy contracts involving total actual expenditure of $2.41 million (goods and services tax (GST-inclusive). In addition, six ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period, involving total actual expenditure of $0.25 million (GST-inclusive).
We applied the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and Department of Finance guidance when selecting and engaging consultants. We also followed internal policy and associated procedures that provide guidance on identifying and determining the nature of a contract. This ensured that appropriate methods for engagement and contracting were executed. We engaged consultants when there was a need for professional, independent and expert advice or services that were not available from within the organisation.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website. We are not required to publish information on the AusTender website, in line with authorised exemptions to avoid prejudice to our national security activities. A list of consultancy contracts to the value of $10 000 or more during this reporting period, and the total value of each of those contracts over the life of each contract, is available on request for members of the PJCIS, which has oversight of our administration and expenditure.
During this reporting period, we did not enter into any contracts valued at $100 000 or more that did not provide access to the contractor’s premises by the Auditor-General.
The Director-General has applied measures necessary to protect national security which exempt ASIO from publishing details of contract arrangements, including standing offers, in accordance with clause 2.6 of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Details of our agreements, contracts and standing offers are available on request for members of the PJCIS.
Advertising and market research spends
We spent $360 982 on advertising in 2016–17, predominantly on recruitment campaigns. ASIO does not fall within the definition of agencies covered by the reporting requirements of section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.