Canning MP Andrew Hastie has been promoted to a key national security role, chairing the parliamentary committee overseeing Australia’s intelligence and security services.
Mr Hastie, a former SAS officer before being elected to parliament in 2015, will assume responsibility for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
He said the committee was responsible for providing “financial and administrative oversight to Australia's intelligence organisations, such as ASIO and ASIS” and “counter-terrorism legislation and other measures designed to keep Australia safe”.
Although Mr Hastie said the committee was bipartisan, there was still vigorous debate.
“There are both Labor and Coalition members on the committee and obviously we have robust discussions and we have points of difference, but ultimately it’s about keeping Australians safe,” he said.
“We ensure every measure examined by the committee is designed to secure our interests and to protect us from threats like terrorism.”
Mr Hastie led a delegation from the committee to the United States before parliament resumed this year, which included Labor’s shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong.
The delegation was in Washington when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and President Donald Trump discussed a deal for the United States to take Australia-bound asylum seekers in a heated phone call that made headlines around the world.
But Mr Hastie said the alliance between Australia and the United States remained solid.
“We have a close intelligence and defence partnership with the Americans and that relationship isn’t going anywhere,” he said.
“It’s going to remain as it is and it enjoys bipartisan support.
“When we met with House and Senate leaders, and members of the [US] House Intelligence Committee, those committee members really emphasised the importance of the relationship and this was before the phone call.
“In fact, it was kind of odd, I was sitting there in front of the Senate Intelligence and Security Committee and the committee minority leader is a senator from Virginia and I said to him, ‘I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn’t for a medic from Virginia who saved my grandfather’s life on the 31st of March 1945’.”
Mr Hastie also said Islamic terrorism and cyber-espionage were the key threats to the national interest the committee would focus on.
“There’s been a huge transfer of wealth in the form of intellectual property which has been stolen by state and non-state actors using cyber means,” he said.
“If Australia wants to remain globally competitive, we need to protect our trade secrets, we need to protect our intellectual property, particularly in WA where we are resource rich but really need to start building robust systems.
“Minister Dan Tehan, who is the minister for cyber security, announced last year a $230 million cyber strategy, but it’s really on companies in Australia to become aware of the threat and so one of the things we’re doing as a committee is looking at how we can build awareness around those threats.”