In a Media Release from the Commonwealth Attorney General's office dated 7 June 2018, Attorney General Christian Porter has welcomed the release of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security ("the Committee") report into the Government’s National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017, saying that the report was "a major step forward in securing passage of this critical legislation and protecting Australia’s democratic systems from Foreign Interference" and that it was his expectation that the Bill would be considered and passed during the next parliamentary sitting period, later in June 2018.
In its report the Committee made 60 recommendations, ranging from minor changes to definitions and clarifications of drafting to more substantive changes such as adopting the Government’s proposed amendments submitted to the Committee as part of its deliberations earlier in 2018. The amendments proposed by the Government expand the public interest defence for journalists and create separate graduated offences for commonwealth officers and non-commonwealth officers. The amendments according to the Attorney General are "designed to strike the best possible balance between keeping Australia safe and not impeding the ordinary and important work of journalists and media organisations".
In addition to the already described recommendations, the additional substantive changes recommended by the Committee include that:
In the Attorney General's view it is urgent that the Bill as reviewed by the Committee and the other related Bill, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017, also being reviewed by the Committee, be passed in the next parliamentary sittings before the by-elections to be held in July 2018. According to the Attorney General:
In the Attorney-General's Media Release he indicates that the Bill and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 are ". . . both critical to modernising our national security laws " to keep Australians safe . Interestingly, the Attorney General indicated that since 2014 there had been 10 tranches of national security law passed with the Government accepting 128 recommendations from the Committee which had resulted in 293 Government Amendments..
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 was introduced with the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (Charges Imposition) Bill 2017, to establish the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme which will require registration by certain persons undertaking certain activities on behalf of a foreign principal. It will require registrants to disclose information about the nature of their relationship with the foreign principal and activities undertaken pursuant to that relationship. The Bill also places additional disclosure requirements on registrants during elections and other voting periods; and establishes a register of scheme information. It provides for certain information to be made publicly available; for the secretary to have powers to obtain information and documents; and establishes various penalties for non-compliance with the scheme.
One of the main concerns is what is described as the "need [for] clear exemptions for civil society". An opinion piece published on The Guardian Australia had this comment from Claire O’Rourke, of Amnesty International Australia:
Hannah Ryan, of the Human Rights Law Centre, also said in the piece:
The key concern appears to be that rather than protecting democracy in Australia, these laws will be misused and democracy will be further eroded.
TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 - available from TimeBase's LawOne service
FREE legislation news, delivered weekly.
Sign up now.#WeLoveLegislation Tweets
NEW information resources - great for training.