While George Brandis was quick to replace solicitor-general Justin Gleeson with Stephen Donaghue yesterday, many are wondering when the Attorney-General will get around to replacing his independent national security legislation monitor (INSLM). It almost went unreported outside of legal circles that Roger Gyles, appointed to the job in August last year, resigned mysteriously from the role in October.

It was so quiet that journalists are still referring to him as the current INSLM.

The website for the INSLM states that the government “intends to announce” his replacement “in the near future”. In the meantime, it seems we are without anyone to monitor all the national security legislation the Abbott-Turnbull government has passed in the past few years. That is how the government would have liked it, though. It was intended that the INSLM would be shut down, but that decision was reversed in order to get Labor’s support for national security legislation.

The office has not been adequately funded, however. In Gyles’ last annual report to the government in October shortly before he retired, he lamented the workload for what was a part-time position.

“None of the topics of review are trivial and all require the balancing of security against individual and community rights and freedoms. Completion of such a program in an acceptable timeframe will require more support than is presently available,” he said.

He was given some staff to help ease the workload, but he noted there were still issues, something his replacement will now have to deal with:

“More work is needed in conjunction with the Attorney–General and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop the office of the INSLM to the point where it has the capacity to satisfactorily support the Monitor in carrying out the statutory duties and functions of the Monitor. An effective ongoing office is also necessary to ensure the seamless departure of one Monitor, and replacement with another so as to avoid the administrative problems that I encountered after my appointment.”

Peter Fray

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