Review of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s security procedures, practices and culture - Terms of Reference

Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Publication author(s):
Publication abstract:

The ‘Terms of Reference’ for the review into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (PM&C’s) security procedures, practices and culture. 


At 12 noon on Wednesday 31 January, the ABC published a webpage called “The Cabinet Files”. The webpage referenced a series of classified Commonwealth documents provided to the ABC by a third party, reportedly following the purchase of locked filing cabinets at a second-hand furniture shop in Canberra.

The Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has referred this matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for investigation into how these documents left the Commonwealth’s possession. The Secretary has confirmed that it is reasonably evident that the documents came from within PM&C.

As part of the response to this incident, the Secretary has commissioned Mr Ric Smith AO PSM to undertake an independent review of PM&C’s security procedures, practices and culture, including the implications for the Australian Public Service more broadly.

In order for it to effectively discharge its responsibilities, it is critical that the Australian Public Service appropriately safeguards all official information, to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Purpose and Scope

The review will make recommendations to ensure that PM&C safeguards official information in an appropriately secure and practical manner that reflects the trust and confidence placed in them by the Government and the Opposition of the day, and will address the implications of these findings for the Australian Public Service.

In particular, the review will consider PM&C’s security procedures, practices and culture, including:

  • PM&C practices, systems and documented procedures for handling, storing, disposing of and providing access to official information, as well as the safeguarding and disposal of assets used to store official information;
  • the effectiveness of these procedures in responding to staff movements and in different working environments; and
  • the formal and informal security culture within PM&C, including
    • internal communication and training regarding security, and
    • the awareness, behaviours and attitudes of staff towards proper security.

The review will also address the implications of its findings on these matters for the broader Australian Public Service.


It is envisaged that a preliminary report will be prepared for the Secretary of PM&C by early March 2018, with a final report by mid‑March 2018.

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