December 24, 2010
THE ballooning powers and funding of Australia’s spy agencies will be investigated for the first time in six years, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing an independent review of their role.
The review will run in the first half of next year and follows a boom decade for intelligence, with Australia’s six spy agencies enjoying ever-greater powers and funding.
”The review will ensure Australia continues to have a well-co-ordinated, appropriately resourced and adaptable intelligence system that supports our national interests,” Ms Gillard said.
The agencies’ growth has been accompanied by criticism that they have grown too fast, and that the powers of the parliamentary and statutory intelligence watchdogs have not been able to keep up.
The six Australian intelligence agencies are: the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO); the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS); the Office of National Assessments (ONA); and the three Defence intelligence agencies.
In recent years ASIO has become the country’s wiretap hub, and its budget appropriations have grown by 535 per cent - from $69 million to $438 million annually – since 2001. Over the same period ASIS and ONA have experienced growth rates of 344 per cent and 443 per cent, respectively.
A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard yesterday said the review was not designed to put the brakes on the spy agencies’ funding.
”The aim of the review is to ensure that our intelligence agencies are working effectively together – it is not aimed at identifying reductions in resourcing,” she said.
The review is the result of a recommendation in the 2004 Flood review of the intelligence agencies, which found they should be independently examined every five to seven years.
It will be headed by the former secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Cornall, and an ethicist and theologian from Melbourne university, Associate Professor Rufus Black.
Staff will interview the ministers for defence and foreign affairs, Stephen Smith and Kevin Rudd, as well as the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the heads of all six agencies.
http://www.theage.com.au/national/pm-orders-review-of-spy-bodies-20101223-196l8.html, December 24, 20
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