No Australian government agency has been or will ever be authorised to torture, federal Attorney-General George Brandis says.
ASIO could never be authorised to torture people under any circumstance, Attorney-General George Brandis claims.
Labor and crossbenchers have raised concerns that the government’s new security legislation gives ASIO agents scope to break the law as part of undercover operations.
Critics say exemptions from criminal liability for inflicting physical or mental harm on a person during a special intelligence operation could allow ASIO agents to torture people.
But Senator Brandis says that’s impossible because operations involving torture cannot be authorised under the current ASIO Act.
“Under no circumstances has ASIO ever or would ASIO ever be authorised to torture,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“This is not something that any Australian government agency, no matter what the circumstances, could ever do.”
He also said the government had adopted 17 recommendations from the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, which would strengthen safeguards against torture.
Mr Brandis said among those were requirements for the attorney-general to authorise all special intelligence operations and further oversight by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).
But shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus called on the government to put torture beyond doubt in the legislation.
“It might be a matter of just a simple amendment that can be made to this legislation which is being debated in the parliament next week that absolutely puts beyond doubt that there’s no immunity anywhere in Australian law that could in anyway suggest that any Australian government employee could in engage in an act of torture,” Mr Dreyfus told reporters in Melbourne.