A motion put forward by Greens senator Scott Ludlam to establish a committee on electronic surveillance to investigate the Government’s intelligence activities has been met with a resounding no in the Senate.
Ludlam today moved that the Select Committee on Electronic Surveillance be established to report on the adequacy of the institutional, technical and legal framework governing Australian intelligence agencies.
He singled out the right to privacy and data security, intelligence agency accountability to parliament, and international legal obligations and agreements as key areas of focus.
"[NSA whistleblower] Edward Snowden has revealed domestic and extra-territorial surveillance, interception and data collection by our own government and others in the 'Five Eyes' agreement, showing just how eroded civil and political rights have become in the digital age,” Ludlam said in a statement.
"The Australian Government and Opposition have refused repeated attempts to establish an inquiry into electronic surveillance in Australia.”
He had asked for the committee to be made up of seven senators — three from the LNP, three from Labor and one independent, but received 46 votes against and only 11 votes for the proposal in the Senate late today.
It’s the second motion related to Australia’s intelligence activities put forward by Ludlam to be voted down this week.
Ludlam previously moved for the Senate to call on the Government to re-establish the dormant Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which was also voted down by both Labor and the LNP.
The committee served as the principal oversight framework for intelligence agencies prior to the September federal election, but has since been inactive.
Senator Ludlam said both parties had repeatedly reminded him in recent months the committee had the oversight of local intelligence agencies, but it had not in fact been re-established by the current government.
He moved the motion for its re-establishment in order to deal with the variety of issues involving Australian intelligence activities that had surfaced in recent months.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is formalised under its own legislation — section 28(1) of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 — which Victorian Liberal senator and Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield, said meant Ludlam's motion was therefore based on a false premise. It was voted down by 44 votes to 10.
"The government is consulting on its membership in accordance with the statutory requirements and will finalise this process shortly," Fifield said.