Today the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced into Parliament.
The introduction of the Bill is a significant step towards reforming and uplifting Australia’s security clearance vetting capability in relation to the highest level of security clearances in the Australian Government.
ASIO assesses that espionage and foreign interference is now Australia’s principal security concern. In this context, the Bill hardens access to Australia’s most sensitive information, capabilities and secrets; increases our ability to prevent foreign intelligence services exploiting our highest level security clearance and review processes; and protects individual rights.
As with many of the improvements the Albanese Government is making to strengthen our national security, this Bill represents action which will fix long-standing issues that have significant impacts on our national security workforce.
These reforms will ensure Australia’s security clearance framework is consistent with international best practice in the face of a complex, challenging and changing security environment.
Centralising Australia’s highest-level security clearance in ASIO means that a person’s suitability to hold the highest level of security clearance can be assessed against the most current information that ASIO holds about the security threats confronting Australia.
The Bill will also provide a new function for the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) to provide independent assurance concerning the quality, consistency and transferability of Australia’s highest level security clearance, resolving problems of clearance processes not being consistent across agencies, and to drive the strengthening of capabilities across those Australian Government departments and agencies sponsoring such clearances to deal with insider threats.
The Bill also grants new rights of internal and external merits review processes for individuals who apply for security clearances issued by ASIO, recognising the impact that a clearance decision can have on an individual and ensuring appropriate avenues of review.
Implementing a consistent and assured approach across the Australian Government reduces the risk of compromise by trusted insiders; improves the mobility of our most highly vetted workforce; and ensures the ongoing confidence of Australia’s most trusted allies and global partners.
At a time when Australia is being targeted by espionage and foreign interference more than any other time in Australia’s history, the Albanese Government is taking decisive action to protect the Commonwealth’s most privileged information, capabilities and secrets.