DAN Tehan will have one of the most top-secret files in Australia as chairman of a bipartisan parliamentary committee watching over the nation’s spy and security agencies.
Amid prickly relationships with Indonesia since recent revelations by a whistleblower of Australia’s spying practices, Mr Tehan’s committee will be dealing with highly-sensitive issues.
The Hamilton-based Liberal member for Wannon has scored one of the most responsible oversight jobs in Canberra. Each person on the 11-member committee is personally signed off by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“This is unique in the approval process and is probably one of the most sought-after committees in parliament,” Mr Tehan told The Standard yesterday. “It’s an honour to be chosen. Our committee plays a key oversight role in protecting the interests of the Australian community and ensuring our nation’s agencies are accountable to the government.”
However, any fallout in international relationships will remain the responsibility of relevant cabinet ministers.
“Our committee’s work is bipartisan and above day-to-day politics,” Mr Tehan said.
“We have to be very careful and keep in mind that the national interest is paramount.
“It is a scrutiny role dealing with very sensitive information.”
The joint committee looks at security precautions, counter terrorism measures and intelligence organisations such as ASIO and border protection. It has the power to seek documents and call for people to give evidence and investigate government administration and service delivery.
Mr Tehan’s background of more than seven years in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade probably helped in his appointment.
He worked in Canberra dealing with US relationships and spent three years in Mexico as deputy head of mission in the Australian embassy.
His other parliamentary leadership roles are chairman of the Victorian blackspot committee, chairman of the Coalition’s agriculture backbenchers’ committee and chairman of the Liberal rural and regional caucus.
Mr Tehan said most meetings would be slotted into parliamentary sitting dates and not affect his time in Wannon.
“The electorate always comes first,” he said.