14.1 Previous chapters of this Report have focused on the legal obligations of non-disclosure that should apply to Commonwealth officers and others who handle Commonwealth information. Secrecy laws, however, do not operate in a vacuum. Other laws and practices will influence whether or not an entity publishes, or an individual discloses, Commonwealth information, including freedom of information (FOI) and privacy laws, and the broader information-handling culture within agencies and organisations.
14.2 Australian Government agencies employ a range of strategies to guide the release of Commonwealth information by individual officers, including developing and implementing written manuals, policies and guidelines governing when Commonwealth information should be shared and when it should be kept secret—such as the Australian Government Protective Security Manual (PSM) and agency policies on information handling. In some situations, Australian Government agencies may issue directions to employees, which impose new and different legal obligations from those set out in secrecy and other information-handling laws. Information-sharing practices may be formalised through memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and information and communication technology (ICT) systems.
14.3 This chapter discusses the extent to which the above strategies contribute to the compliance of Commonwealth officers with secrecy laws and other information-handling obligations, and makes suggestions for improvements.
14.4 Chapter 15 considers issues relating to the information-handling culture of an Australian Government agency—including, for example, the training and education of employees and avenues for employees to raise queries and concerns. The chapter also discusses the role of integrity agencies in overseeing the manner in which agencies discharge their information-handling responsibilities.
14.5 The relationship between secrecy laws and other laws relevant to information handling is discussed in Chapter 16.