The Liberal-National Government is increasing the ability of Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officers to protect themselves and others.
Our ASIS officers often work in dangerous locations, including under warlike conditions, to protect Australia and our interests. As the world becomes more complex, the overseas operating environment for ASIS also becomes more complex.
The Intelligence Services Act provisions relating to the use of force by ASIS have not undergone significant amendment since 2004, while successive governments have asked ASIS to do more in response to national security priorities, in new places and in new circumstances unforeseen 14 years ago.
To reflect these changes, the Government has today introduced the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018 to Parliament. It will amend the Intelligence Services Act 2001 to:
- enable the Minister to specify additional persons, such as a hostage, who may be protected by an ASIS staff member or agent, and
- allow an ASIS staff member or agent performing specified activities outside Australia to be able to use reasonable force in the course of their duties.
Currently, ASIS officers are only able to use weapons for self-protection, or the protection of other staff members or agents cooperating with ASIS. The changes will mean officers are able to protect a broader range of people and use reasonable force if someone poses a risk to an operation.
Like the existing ability to use weapons for self-defence, these amendments will be an exception to the standing prohibitions against the use of violence or use of weapons by ASIS.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security will continue to have important oversight roles of ASIS’s authorisations and guidelines on the use of weapons and use of force.