On 13 May 1952, ASIS was established as a collector of foreign intelligence, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today, ASIS is part of the Foreign Affairs portfolio and is responsible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The agency collects and distributes secret foreign intelligence, information which would be otherwise unavailable to Australia, in order to protect Australia and further Australian interests.
As a collection agency, ASIS gathers intelligence in response to government priorities only. These could include national defence, international relations and economic issues. ASIS also contributes to Australia’s coordinated national efforts against terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and transnational issues such as people smuggling.
As stipulated in the Intelligence Services Act 2001, ASIS works to gain intelligence on people or organisations outside Australia, including their capabilities, intentions and activities.
Other functions of the ASIS are to:
- obtain, in accordance with the government’s requirements, intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside Australia; and
- communicate, in accordance with the government’s requirements, such intelligence
- to provide assistance to the Defence Force in support of military operations and to cooperate with the Defence Force on intelligence matters
- conduct counter-intelligence activities
- liaise with intelligence or security services, or authorities of other countries
- cooperate with and assist bodies referred to in section 13A, by the rules in that section
- undertake activities by the rules under section 13B
- undertake such other activities as the responsible Minister directs relating to the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside Australia.
ASIS works closely with other members of the National Intelligence Community (NIC) to ensure delivery of whole of government outcomes, a coordinated approach to intelligence activities and the appropriate use of government resources.
ASIS also operates as part of a wider group of intelligence allies, having close links to allied services and a wide range of ties with the intelligence services of other countries.