Today, in a story handed to one of its favoured News Corp journalists, the Abbott government has made clear it wants shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus off the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
JCIS is one of the few mechanisms for accountability for intelligence agencies that Australia has, after the committee expanded recently to a larger role of vetting, monitoring and reviewing security-related legislation. Dreyfus was temporarily added to the committee last year for the inquiry into data retention.
Quite why the government is so determined to remove Dreyfus isn’t clear; George Brandis was on the committee as a permanent member when he was shadow attorney-general.
Nonetheless, we think Abbott is right — in fact, he should go a step further, and get rid of all frontbenchers on the committee.
Having any member of an opposition ministry on JCIS is problematic in terms of their capacity to act independently of their party’s policy positions on national security matters. JCIS would operate more independently and more effectively if it were composed entirely of backbenchers.
Australia needs an independent intelligence committee that can deal with the most critical challenge for any government, its national security, in a non-partisan and non-politicised way. Tony Abbott, as we’ve seen with today’s disgusting comment about Labor “rolling out the red carpet for terrorists”, is hell-bent on politicising national security.
So, yes, dump Dreyfus, and any other opposition frontbencher. But not to satisfy some grubby partisan urge on the part of a prime minister who apparently will say and do anything to exploit terrorism to his political advantage.
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