In 2004, the Australian Law Reform Commission (the ALRC) conducted a detailed review of mechanisms which existed to protect national security information in court proceedings. The ALRC concluded that, consistent with Australia’s increasing concerns over international terrorism and national security, “[c]ourts, tribunals and government agencies need clearer and more refined procedures to ensure the proper handling of…sensitive material.” In its report Keeping Secrets: The Protection of Classified and Security Sensitive Information (ALRC 98), the ALRC made 80 recommendations for reform, including the enactment of an ‘NSI Procedures Act’ to deal specifically with the protection of classified and sensitive information used in court, tribunal and other proceedings.
The National Security Information (Criminal Proceedings) Act 2004 was passed on 8 December 2004, its main provisions commencing on 11 January 2005. The Act was amended to extend NSI Act protections to civil proceedings by the National Security Information Legislation Amendment Act 2005, which commenced on 3 August 2005.
The National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Regulations 2005 (the NSI Regulations), which prescribe requirements for the storage, handling and destruction of information under the Act, also commenced on 11 January 2005.
The NSI Regulations incorporate the Requirements for the Protection of National Security Information in Federal Criminal Proceedings and Civil Proceedings (the NSI Requirements), which further specify how and where national security information must be accessed, stored and otherwise handled and address a range of physical security matters.