Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017
The submission in response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017 was prepared by the Law Council.
The Law Council acknowledges the assistance of it National Criminal Law Committee, Migration Law Committee of the Federal Litigation and Dispute Resolution Section, the New South Wales Bar Association, the Law Society of South Australia, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Law Society of New South Wales in the preparation of this submission.
The Bill has been introduced in order to more closely confine the Act’s potential impact on the constitutionally protected implied freedom of political communication. It seeks to amend the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth) to:
- repeal the definition of ‘protected information’ in subsection 4(1) of the Act;
- remove the current requirement for bodies to which information can be disclosed and classes of information to be prescribed in the Australian Border Force (Secrecy and Disclosure) Rule 2015; and
- add new permitted purposes for which ‘Immigration and Border Protection information’ can be disclosed under the Act such as information relating to intercountry adoption, protection of national security and defence of Australia, and the location of missing persons.
In the timeframe for the inquiry, the Law Council has not been able to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the Bill. However, the Law Council welcomes any attempt at ameliorating the secrecy provisions in the Act in order to address concerns over the encroachments on freedom of speech.
The principal concern is that the secrecy offence applies to almost all individuals who provide services to Australian Border Force (ABF), and to almost all information obtained while providing such services.
The Law Council considers that any step taken by the Parliament that might limit the prohibitions on disclosure of information under the existing provisions of the Act should be supported – even if, as is the case with the amendments proposed in the Bill, the limitation is likely to be very modest in practice. A suite of unjustifiably wide-ranging prohibitions on the disclosure of information connected with the activities of the ABF will remain in place.
You can read the full submission below.