Our work depends on the trust others place in us, including the Australian Government, our partners and the Australian public. To earn this, we are forthright, fair and lead by example. We take our responsibilities seriously, including how we protect the privacy of Australians and support public interest disclosures.
Integrity and accountability
We are an independent statutory agency with functions established by the Office of National Intelligence Act 2018. We report directly to the Prime Minister and are led by the Director-General of National Intelligence.
As with all members of the National Intelligence Community, we have multiple layers of accountability, are committed to strong, independent oversight and are transparent about our activities where we can be. As Australia's senior intelligence assessment body, we are committed to analytical rigour, contestability and independence.
We support and answer to the Prime Minister
We operate within the Prime Minister’s portfolio and report directly to the Prime Minister.
We are the Prime Minister’s principal source of intelligence advice, including in relation to national intelligence priorities, requirements and capabilities. The Director-General of National Intelligence is the Prime Minister’s principal intelligence adviser.
We have legislated responsibility for ensuring the Prime Minister is informed on matters relating to the National Intelligence Community. Under our Act, the Director-General of National Intelligence must also consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition, keeping them informed of significant intelligence matters.
We have a clear mission and well-defined powers
Our enabling legislation, the Office of National Intelligence Act 2018, sets out our functions and clearly defines our powers and responsibilities.
We have legislated analytical independence
Our analytical independence is set out in our establishing legislation. We believe we remain the only intelligence assessment agency in the world to have this legislated protection of our independence. You can find out more about our creation and our history.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security regularly reviews how we uphold our analytical independence. These inspections test and ensure that our analytical processes are transparent and free from bias and that assessments are being developed and tested appropriately.
We embed rigour and contestability in our work
We use internal processes and external consultation to ensure our judgments, our analysis and our broader work are informed by as wide as possible an evidence base and are suitably reviewed and challenged by colleagues and partners.
We use a mixture of structured, creative and evaluative processes to inform, review and evaluate our analytical and National Intelligence Community coordination work. We proactively engage with leading experts from business, academia and government within and beyond Australia to challenge and test our thinking.
We operate with independent and parliamentary oversight
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is responsible for overseeing our operations, including our compliance with legislation. The IGIS provides independent assurance that Australian intelligence agencies conduct their activities within Australian law, behave with propriety, comply with ministerial guidelines and directions, and respect human rights. The IGIS has authority to conduct inspections of and inquiries into our activities and regularly reviews our compliance with privacy policies and our analytical independence.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) reviews the administration and expenditure of the intelligence agencies, including the Office of National Intelligence, and reviews matters related to the intelligence agencies referred by the responsible minister or the Parliament.
The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor independently reviews the operation, effectiveness and implications of national security and counter-terrorism laws. The Monitor considers whether the laws contain appropriate protections for individual rights, remain proportionate to terrorism or national security threats and remain necessary.
We are an accountable public agency
The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and Commonwealth Risk Management Policy 2014 require us as a statutory agency, to have formal governance structures and committees that maintain systems of risk oversight and internal control.
Our public accountability also includes publication of our Portfolio Budget Statements, annual reporting to the Parliament by the PJCIS, and the appearance of the Director-General at the Senate Finance and Administration Legislation Committee (when required). More information is available on our corporate reporting page.
The Prime Minister, as the minister responsible for the Office of National Intelligence, makes written privacy rules on how we are to protect the privacy of Australians. Like other intelligence agencies, we are exempt from the operation of the Privacy Act 1988 and these rules instead ensure we preserve and protect the privacy of Australian persons as far as is consistent with the proper performance of our function.
Our Privacy Rules set out how we should appropriately collect, communicate, handle and retain identifiable information about Australian persons. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security oversees our compliance with the rules, including through regular inquiries and checks on our processes and procedures.
Our Privacy Rules rules are published publicly and downloadable below:
If a breach of our Privacy Rules is identified, we must advise the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security of the incident and the measures we have taken to protect the privacy of the Australian person or Australian persons more generally.
Public Interest Disclosures
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) promotes integrity and accountability in the Commonwealth public sector by:
- facilitating public officials (and former public officials) to disclose suspected wrongdoings within the public sector;
- providing a framework to investigate suspected wrongdoing; and
- protecting disclosers from reprisals and legal action for making a disclosure.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security oversees the operation of the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) scheme for the Office of National Intelligence.
ONI is committed to maintaining and upholding its integrity and ethical working environment, and will thoroughly investigate all PIDs to uphold these values. ONI encourages and supports the reporting of suspected or probable illegal conduct or other wrongdoing under the PID Act.
For more information visit the Public Interest Disclosure section of this website.