2.1          In this Inquiry the ALRC has been asked to have regard to the importance of balancing the public interest in an open and accountable system of government with the need to protect Commonwealth information. The challenge then is to identify the proper place for secrecy provisions in the context of open government.

2.2          The concept of secrecy as a mechanism for protecting government information, on the one hand, and the commitment to openness of government, on the other, reflect certain historical understandings of the relationship between a government, citizens, officials and information. In setting the scene for a consideration of the role and function of secrecy provisions in Commonwealth laws today, this chapter will explore some of the key ideas and developments in the conceptual landscape.

2.3          The chapter begins with a brief historical overview of the shift from secrecy towards open government followed by a review of current trends in open government. The chapter then considers the right of freedom of expression under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),[1] concluding with a discussion of balancing concepts of secrecy, freedom of expression and open government.