Labor MP calls for ‘much greater’ parliamentary oversight of security agencies after AFP raids


“People were quite surprised by the raids last week. It has led them to question the powers of the security agencies and police force,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“The way to meet those concerns is to have increased transparency and accountability.”

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He wants the committee to be empowered as a more independent body that can examine the operational activities of the security agencies and initiate its own inquiries.

This would mean that the committee could, for example, initiate an inquiry into last week’s police raids on ABC headquarters and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.

Mr Byrne, who is regarded as hawkish on national security issues and supportive of the agencies’ work, believes there would be bipartisan support for the changes, which would emulate the powers held by equivalent committees in the United States and Britain.

“This committee should be given much greater powers to discharge its responsibilities more effectively,” he said.

Responding to the controversy over the police raids, the government has expressed interest in the  creation of a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom pending further consultation with media outlets, Labor and others.

“A joint parliamentary committee, whether it’s the [parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security] or one specifically constituted for this purpose, would be an essential step to ensuring that we have a thorough review, and we come to sound conclusions,” Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said on Wednesday.

Senator Keneally said the opposition has “very real concern that freedom of the press is under attack in Australia” and said the Parliament should “look with fresh eyes” at the tranches of national security laws that have been put in place since the election of the Coalition government in 2013.



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