Aust not worried about intel from torture

Lisa Martin

Australia won't be checking whether intelligence from the US is obtained by torture, a Senate committee has been told.

US President Donald Trump in January flagged approval for waterboarding, but since has deferred the issue to his Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Defence department secretary Dennis Richardson said Australia's national interest was served by intelligence-sharing arrangements within the "five eyes club" that also includes New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and the US.

"Australian lives have been saved because of it," he told a budget estimates committee hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.

"We don't know how the intelligence is obtained."

Mr Richardson denied Australia was having trouble establishing the Trump administration's foreign and defence policy.

"No not at all," Mr Richardson he said.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam quoted various controversial statements from the White House on issues such as nuclear weapons and the South China Sea.

Mr Richardson dismissed them as "highly selective and misleading".

Senator Ludlam said the department was doing "an amazing job making President Trump sound sane".