As a statutory agency in the Defence portfolio, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) reports directly to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Hon Richard Marles MP.
ASD operates under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (ISA). The Director-General ASD is the accountable authority of ASD.
A specific function of ASD under the ISA is to obtain signals intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside Australia for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the Australian Government. This function is to be performed only in the interests of Australia’s national security, Australia’s foreign relations or Australia’s national economic well-being.
ASD’s functions are to:
- collect foreign signals intelligence
- communicate foreign signals intelligence
- prevent and disrupt offshore cyber-enabled crime
- provide cyber security advice and assistance to Australian Government departments, businesses and individuals
- support military operations
- protect the specialised tools ASD uses to fulfil its functions
- cooperate with and assist the national security community in the performance of its functions.
The Act requires the minister responsible for ASD to issue written directions to Director-General ASD, which must require the agency to seek authorisation from the minister before undertaking certain activities.
The minister responsible for ASD is also required to make privacy rules on how ASD is to protect the privacy of Australians.
ASD provides the following public reporting:
- Under the PGPA Act, ASD’s primary planning document is the ASD Corporate Plan.
- ASD publicly reports on its performance through the release of the ASD Annual Report.
- ASD reports its resourcing and approach to meet the Australian Government’s directions for our priorities in the following:
- ASD attends Senate Estimates hearings as a separate statutory agency within the Defence portfolio.
All of ASD’s activities are also subject to oversight from Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, which provides independent assurance that Australia’s intelligence and security agencies act legally and with propriety. The Inspector-General’s authority includes complete access to agency records and powers to require evidence. If you suspect wrongdoing, you can make a public interest disclosure to the Inspector-General.
ASD’s performance and financial statements are also auditable by the Auditor-General.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security provides further oversight of ASD’s administration, expenditure, enabling legislation and any matters referred by the Australian Senate, House of Representatives or a minister of the Australian Government. ASD also appears before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade during Senate Estimates hearings.