Introduction

16.1 In Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia, Associate Professor Moira Paterson remarked that there is a

complex tapestry of interconnected and overlapping statutory regimes that govern access to, and amendment of, government information, including freedom of information laws, privacy laws (including information privacy and health records laws) and public records laws.[1]

16.2 In this chapter, the ALRC considers the relationship between Commonwealth secrecy laws and other laws dealing with the handling of Commonwealth information—namely, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act), the Archives Act 1983 (Cth) and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). The chapter also considers the interaction between secrecy laws and parliamentary privilege.

16.3 Secrecy laws may also interact with laws governing Royal Commissions and other public executive inquiries. In January 2009, the ALRC was issued with Terms of Reference for an inquiry into Royal Commissions and related issues. In the Discussion Paper, Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries, the ALRC proposed a model for dealing with the relationship between public executive inquiries and secrecy laws.[2] The final Report for this Inquiry was submitted to the Attorney-General on 30 October 2009. At the time of writing, the report has not yet been tabled in Parliament.

[1] M Paterson, Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia: Government and Information Access in the Modern State (2005), [1.2].

[2] Australian Law Reform Commission, Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries, Discussion Paper 75 (2009), Proposal 17–2.