Review of Commonwealth Secrecy Provisions
The Law Council’s National Criminal Law Committee, National Security Law Working Group, National Human Rights Committee, and Federal Dispute Resolution Section’s Military Justice Committee provided a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department in response to the Review of Secrecy Provisions (the Review).
As a general comment, the Law Council maintains its support for the development and amendment of Commonwealth secrecy provisions in a manner consistent with the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report: Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Secrecy Report).1 The Law Council considers that full adoption of the measures recommended by the Secrecy Report will ensure that secrecy provisions can be justified within a system of open and accountable government and in a manner consistent with the right to freedom of expression.
There must be an appropriate balance between the desirability of open government and the legitimate public interest in protecting some information from disclosure, for reasons including national security, defence, international relations, and privacy considerations.
On the one hand, it is critical that Australia’s law enforcement and security agencies have access to powers which may, in certain instances, have the effect of curtailing press freedoms in order to allow for the proper investigation of serious offending and the obtaining of intelligence regarding legitimate threats to essential public interests.
1 Australian Law Reform Commission, Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Report 112, 11 March 2010). (‘ALRC’s Secrecy Report’)