The Rudd Government will seek to simplify secrecy and confidentiality laws by referring this legislation to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) for inquiry.
“I have asked the ALRC to develop options for ensuring a consistent approach across government to the protection of Commonwealth information,” said Attorney‑General Robert McClelland.
There are currently more than one hundred secrecy and confidentiality provisions in Commonwealth legislation. The interaction of these provisions with one another, and with other legislation, is overly complex.”
“We are committed to open and accountable government and want to ensure that Commonwealth information is only protected where there is a legitimate reason for doing so.”
“Where there are legitimate reasons for protecting Commonwealth information – such as information relating to national security – we need to ensure that our laws provide sufficient protection against unauthorised disclosure.”
The Government recognises the increasing need for agencies to be able to share information across government and with the private sector.
“Removing barriers to the sharing of information has been identified as an important step to achieving a whole-of‑government approach to national security,” Mr McClelland said.
“Equally, we need strong secrecy laws in place to ensure that sensitive Commonwealth information remains protected from unauthorised disclosure if it is passed to other agencies.”
The Attorney-General has asked the ALRC to provide its final report to him by 31 October 2009.
The terms of reference are attached. Information about the inquiry will be available on the ALRC’s website at www.alrc.gov.au.