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External scrunity

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

Section 28 of the ISA establishes the PJCIS and section 29 gives the PJCIS the function to review ASD’s administration and expenditure.

ASD provided the PJCIS with a classified written submission as part of its Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 19 (2019–2020) – Australian Intelligence Agencies on 3 December 2020. ASD appeared before the PJCIS on 15 April 2021 at a classified hearing covering both the Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 18 (2018–2019) and No. 19 (2019–2020).

Alongside the Department of Home Affairs, ASD appeared before the PJCIS as part of its Review of the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 on 10 March 2021. Records of ASD’s evidence can be found in the Hansard. ASD also made a submission to the PJCIS as part of the inquiry.

On 11 June 2021, ASD and the Department of Home Affairs appeared at a public hearing before the PJCIS as part of its Review of the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Bill) 2020 and Statutory Review of the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018. Records of ASD’s evidence can be found in the Hansard. ASD also made a submission to the PJCIS as part of this inquiry, and appeared at a classified hearing on 16 March 2021.

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

As a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio, ASD appears before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for Estimates hearings. ASD testified before the committee on 27 October 2020, 24 March 2021, and 2 June 2021. Records of ASD's evidence to the committee can be found in the Hansard.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

IGIS is an independent Statutory Officer who reviews the activities of the NIC, including the activities of ASD. IGIS undertakes independent checks across ASD's operational activities, investigates complaints received by their office, and reports ASD's compliance performance through their annual report.

During 2020–21, IGIS undertook a regular inspection program of activities across ASD's operational functions, which included visits to ASD facilities, meetings with ASD staff and audits of ASD documentation.

ASD works closely with IGIS to provide information about ASD's activities, particularly where questions of legal compliance or propriety might arise. During 2020–21, this included providing technical briefings and operational updates, support for new IGIS-initiated projects, and details about legal advice provided to ASD.

During 2020–21, ASD reported five confirmed breaches of legislation to IGIS. Upon identification of these breaches ASD initiated an investigation to provide an in-depth analysis of the incident, and proposed recommendations to mitigate reoccurrence. Four of these breaches were reviewed by IGIS who agreed with the outcomes and were satisfied by ASD’s remedial actions in relation to the specific incidents. As of 30 June 2021, the remaining breach was yet to be reviewed by IGIS. Additionally, on some occasions during lawful interception of foreign communications under warrant, ASD unknowingly and unintentionally intercepts or enables interception of communications other than foreign. This is despite significant ASD safeguards and mitigation efforts to prevent such incidents from occurring. Six such cases were reported to IGIS during the reporting period.

Briefings to the Leader of the Opposition

Section 27D of the ISA requires the Director-General to consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives to keep them informed on matters relating to ASD. During 2020–21, the Director-General met with the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP for this purpose.

Australian National Audit Office

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) supports the Auditor-General to provide a full range of audit and assurance services to the Parliament and the Commonwealth public sector entities and statutory bodies specified in the Auditor-General Act 1997. The ANAO is a regular observer of ASDARC meetings.

ASD works closely with the ANAO and the Auditor-General to provide information about ASD's activities. During the reporting year, the ANAO undertook a series of audit activities to provide relevant and reliable information about ASD’s financial performance and position.

In early 2020, the ANAO commenced a performance audit to assess the effectiveness of cyber security risk mitigation strategies of select non-corporate Commonwealth entities against the requirements of the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) and the support provided by responsible cyber policy agencies. The ANAO presented its performance audit report to the Parliament on 19 March 2021.

Judicial and administrative decisions

No judicial decisions, or decisions made by administrative tribunals, were deemed to have had a significant effect on the operations of ASD during the 2020–21 reporting period.