As fallout from the government’s Assistance and Access Act continues, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) – which was previously tasked with assessing the amendments – has referred the matter to an independent legislation monitor for review.
Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) Dr James Renwick will review the operation, effectiveness and implications of the law, and assess whether it contains appropriate protections for individual rights.
It is the first time ever the PJCIS has referred legislation to the INSLM.
As recently as last week, members of the tech industry, including Atlassian co-CEO Scott Farqhuar, were warning of the early signs of backlash against Australian companies because of the new Act.
PJCIS Chair, Andrew Hastie, and Deputy Chair, Anthony Byrne, released a statement following the decision to refer the legislation to the INSLM.
“The Act has attracted significant domestic and international attention,” they said in the statement.
“In our view, the INSLM provides a valuable, independent perspective on the balance between necessary security measures and the protection of civil liberties. As such, the INSLM is an important and valued component of Australia’s national security architecture.”
Dr Renwick – who was appointed into the role in 2017 by the Governor-General – will use his legal experience in the role, according to Hastie and Byrne.
“As an eminent barrister, Dr Renwick brings a wealth of legal expertise to the role of INSLM and has a strong understanding of national security issues and the operation of relevant security agencies.”
The INSLM report has been requested by 2020, before the PJCIS hands down its review – which will consider findings from the INSLM – later that year.
A former Fulbright Scholar, Dr Renwick was appointed Senior Counsel at 12 Wentworth Selborne Chambers in 2011 and has previously taught National Security Law at the Sydney University Law School.
Since the role of INSLM was created in 2010, it has independently reviewed the effectiveness and implications of national security and counter-terrorism laws, including the questioning and detention powers in relation to terrorism and stop, search and seize powers.