Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Reader riposte: Oversight of intelligence agencies

Reader riposte: Oversight of intelligence agencies
Published 1 Nov 2013 

Kate Grayson writes:

The 2012-13 Annual Report for the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security (IGIS) reveals the constraints of its limited resourcing. From p.3:

"In last year’s annual report I noted the need to review our activities to ensure we focussed on areas of priority and used our limited resources efficiently. In this reporting period we reviewed a number of our practices. For example:

  • we revised our approach to ASIO inspections – partly as a response to ASIO systems changes – to focus on complete investigations rather than inspecting classes of activities
  • for DSD and DIGO we recognised that there were advantages in using a concurrent inspection model to examine their activities
  • we limited interstate inspection visits by inspecting files remotely
  • we re-assessed training requirements, enrolling four staff members in Certificate IV courses and enhancing our internal training program
  • we reviewed our outreach program to focus on key target groups.

Despite increases in average staffing costs and the efficiency dividend, our staffing complement remained constant. This was achieved by removing the international travel budget, limiting interstate travel, and reducing consultancy and legal costs to negligible amounts. Further savings in these areas will not be possible: domestic and international travel is essential to continue to provide appropriate oversight of AIC agencies."

Given that the role of IGIS is to assist the oversight and review of the legality and propriety of the activities of the Australian Intelligence Community agencies, surely words and phrases such as “limited resources”,  “removing”, “reducing” “will not be possible” should raise alarm bells for the Abbott Government. If the measure of a good democracy is the accountability framework to which its intelligence agencies are subject, than clearly Australia’s resourcing of this office is wanting.

You may also be interested in