It is essential for a security service like ASIO, operating in an open democratic society, to respect the rule of law and be accountable for its actions. It is what you rightly expect, and is what we demand of ourselves.
In fact, part of ASIO’s role is to protect the rights and freedoms of Australians and so we operate within a robust legal framework and are answerable to several oversight bodies.
There is a relationship between ASIO’s necessarily secretive work to ensure Australia’s security and the individual liberties of Australians. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Rather, as Justice Hope remarked in his Report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (1984), ’public safety and individual liberty sustain each other’.
Achieving this balance that is at the heart of our oversight and accountability framework.
Key elements include:
- The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and other legislation;
- ministerial oversight by the Attorney-General, who also issues guidelines which set out expectations and principles governing the Organisation’s work;
- ASIO’s publicly available unclassified version of its Annual Report and a classified version for select senior Government officials;
- the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and other parliamentary committees, including scheduled appearances before Senate Estimates;
- the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security; and
- the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.