Breaking: The Cabinet Files shakes up Australian politics

1 February 2018

Breaking: The Cabinet Files shakes up Australian politics

Image credit: Dan Conifer (ABC News)

The so-called “Cabinet Files” obtained and published by ABC News have caused quite the stir in Canberra today, with intelligence agency ASIO securing the documents in early morning operations in Canberra and Brisbane, and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launching legal action against the public broadcaster.

At around 1:00am, ASIO officers delivered government safes to the ABC’s Parliament House Bureau and its South Bank studios, and ensured the classified documents were placed in the safes.

The ABC still has access to the files and its lawyers are in negotiations with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

Kevin Rudd has launched legal action against ABC News after it published details of one of the secret documents and suggested the former Prime Minister ignored safety warnings relating to his government’s home insulation scheme.

During the scheme’s rollout, four insulation installers died.

According to Mr Rudd, the document was considered by the Royal Commission into the scheme, which made no findings against him.

Mr Rudd says he told this to the ABC prior to publishing.

ABC News Director Gaven Morris says the public broadcaster is working with the Government on the future of the files.

“This was an agreed process with the Government, we wanted to ensure that as the national broadcaster we were doing all we could to work to ensure the documents were safe,” he said.

Mr Morris said it was in the national interest to publish the documents and that the ABC is being “responsible” and has not “gone anywhere near stories or issues that may have a national security implication.”

ABC News revealed how it gained acces to the Cabinet Files when they broke the story:

The Cabinet Files is one of the biggest breaches of cabinet security in Australian history and the story of their release is as gripping as it is alarming and revealing.

It begins at a second-hand shop in Canberra, where ex-government furniture is sold off cheaply.

The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys.

They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill.

Inside was the trove of documents now known as The Cabinet Files.

The thousands of pages reveal the inner workings of five separate governments and span nearly a decade.

Nearly all the files are classified, some as “top secret” or “AUSTEO”, which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

But the ex-government furniture sale was not limited to Australians — anyone could make a purchase.

And had they been inclined, there was nothing stopping them handing the contents to a foreign agent or government.

Speaking on the ABC’s 7:30, Former PM&C secretary Terry Moran said: “Whoever was responsible for selling a couple of the filing cabinets, which I think were locked, which must have been heavy with all the papers in them, without checking what was in the filing cabinets, apart from anything else they ought to be found and sacked.”