Committee Backs Covert Powers for Anti-Corruption Commission

Parliament of Australia

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) today presented its Advisory Report on Item 250 of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022.

The report considers Item 250 of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022, which was passed into law in December 2022.

Item 250 amended section 110A(1) of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act) to allow the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) access to stored communications and telecommunications data.

The Committee made seven recommendations in relation to the reform of Australia’s electronic surveillance framework, parliamentary privilege and security of information.

The Committee noted that Item 250 gives a wide range of covert powers to the NACC and considered the effect of the use of these powers on parliamentary privilege. The Committee recommended the Government ensure the protection of parliamentary privilege in relation to the use of covert powers in its Reform of Australia’s Electronic Surveillance Framework. Further the Committee considered that the TIA Act should be expressly amended to ensure that the provisions of that Act do not abrogate parliamentary privilege.

The Committee also recommended that, given the sensitivity of information to be collected and stored by the NACC, it should be required to comply with the Essential Eight Maturity Model to Maturity Level Three as recommended by the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Finally, the Committee recommended that employees at the NACC hold a security clearance of at least Negative Vetting Level 1, with increased requirements up to Positive Vetting depending on their access to sensitive information.

Committee Chair Mr Peter Khalil MP said: ‘The Committee supports allowing what will be Australia’s premier anti-corruption agency the covert powers necessary to undertake its important work. The Committee has recommended some additional measures to ensure that the NACC can operate effectively while ensuring necessary protections for parliamentary privilege, and for sensitive information.”

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