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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1605

(Question No. 985)

Senator Peter Rae asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 August 1984:

Was the Public Service Manual on the Preservation of National Security recently made available to the Sydney Morning Herald under the Freedom of Information Act ; if so, does this seem at all curious to the Attorney-General and does he propose to take any steps to amend the Act in the interests of national security .

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The Protective Security Manual was made available to a journalist employed by the Sydney Morning Herald in May this year following a request for access to the manual made to my Department under the Freedom of Information Act.

The purpose of the manual is to provide to all those officers responsible for formulating departmental security instructions in Government Departments and Authorities a guide to prospective security principles and measures on which departmental security instructions are to be based. The manual does not attempt to provide detailed advice on the technical aspects of physical security, personnel security or on special security relating to international agreements or other specially limited matters.

I am informed that the decision to release the manual was taken after appropriate consultation with the other departments involved in its preparation, and was in accordance with the provisions of the Act. On that basis, the decision to release the manual is not all that curious.

The interests of national security are properly protected by the provisions of the FOI Act. Section 7 (2A), an amendment to the Act introduced by this Government, provides that an agency is exempt from the provisions of the Act in relation to a document that has originated with, or has been received from, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Office of National Assessments, the Defence Signals Directorate or the Joint Intelligence Organisation of the Department of Defence.

Further, the Act creates categories of documents which are exempt from mandatory disclosure. One of these categories is for documents the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the security of the Commonwealth. The security of the Commonwealth is widely defined in the Act. In the light of these provisions, no amendment to the Act in the interests of national security is necessary.