Oversight in the Shadows: A small win for accountability in the national security sphere

by Liam Carter

To say that accountability and oversight is not a strong suit for this government would be an understatement. But there is some good news in the accountability space, with increased funding and staff for two offices tasked with overseeing and implementing accountability measures in the national security sphere.

The Office of the Special Investigator, tasked with investigating alleged war crimes committed by Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan, will increase it staffing levels from 73 in 2020/21 up to 190. The Office was created on the 4th January this year in response to the Brereton report which detailed the unlawful killing of Afghan civilians, and while this increase was expected, it is good to see an uptick of activity on this issue.

Likewise, the Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), which has Royal Commission-like powers to keep an eye on Australia’s intelligence activities, received a funding and staff boost. The 2017 Independent Intelligence Review into Australia’s intelligence community recommended that staffing levels be raised to around 50 personnel to handle increased casework. This budget confirms that IGIS staffing is being boosted from 33 up to 56 personnel  – a welcome move.

While the Government has a long way to go on accountability, these investments are a small win for accountability in shadowy areas that Australian’s are largely blocked from knowing about – making effective and independent oversight even more important.

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