At the outset we point out that the ACTU and its affiliated unions recognise and support the need to ensure that effective measures are in place to protect Australian national security interests. We understand that the protection of key critical infrastructure assets is a central component of any scheme which has our security interests in mind.

We are concerned however to ensure any system that is put in place is well-designed and proportionate and does not encroach unnecessarily into areas of everyday life, particularly the workplaces of ordinary Australians.Our view is that the bill in its present form has some serious shortcomings. Our focus is the impact the bill will have on workers in critical infrastructure sectors. First, the scope of the legislation is extensive. Many industries and many individuals who were not previously subject to security measures will be affected by this bill if it passes in its current form. At the same time, the exact boundaries of the bill are imprecise, both because of the inherent difficulty of defining these sectors and because the details of the new rules that will apply to these sectors are presently unknown.

Finally, the bill mandates (proposed s 8(1)(ba) of the AusCheck Act and s 30AH(4)) that the AusCheck system of background checks will be extended to those working on critical infrastructure assets. This means that vast swathes of the Australian population can be subjected to invasive security checks, eroding fundamental rights to privacy and seriously undermining our civil liberties. We will deal with these problems in turn.