25 September 2023

ASIS wins OK to bear weapons

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Members of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) have been given the power to carry arms and protect Australians overseas under new laws passed by Parliament this week.

Announcing the changes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne said they reflected the environments in which ASIS now operated, which were often hazardous and complex.

“The (new laws) will allow the Minister for Foreign Affairs to specify additional persons outside Australia who may be protected by an armed ASIS staff member,” Senator Payne said.

“They will also enable the use of reasonable force by an ASIS staff member in undertaking specified activities outside Australia in the proper performance of an ASIS function.”

She said ASIS would now work with the Attorney-General’s Department and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) to produce guidelines covering the use of reasonable force.

“Oversight of the use of these powers will be maintained by the independent IGIS and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, ensuring ongoing compliance and reassuring the Australian public that ASIS’s conduct remains consistent with the law,” Senator Payne said.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security tabled its report on the new powers, contained in the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018.

The Committee noted the extensive consultation process that ASIS undertook with the IGIS in the drafting of the Bill.

It also noted that the oversight requirements in the Bill replicated existing oversight requirements and provided an appropriate level of transparency recognising the necessary sensitivities of ASIS activities.

“The Committee is satisfied with the provisions contained in the Bill and recommends that the Intelligence Services Amendment Bill 2018 be passed,” the report stated.

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