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Near Neighbours: Records on Australia's Relations with Indonesia


Appendix 6: Accelerated Access

No statutory right of public access to Commonwealth records less than 30 years old exists, except for records that come within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. However, section 56(1) of the Archives Act 1983 provides for accelerated access, which enables records to be released for public access before they reach 30 years of age (the open access period).

Accelerated access is granted at the discretion of the agency that controls the records. Access to these records is usually only granted when there is widespread public interest in a particular topic. Since the proclamation of the Archives Act in 1984, only the following records have been given accelerated access:

  • the 1954 Royal Commission on Espionage (the Petrov Royal Commission) records, released in 1984;
  • the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia records, released in 1986; and
  • the East Timor records, released in 2000.

Some information within the class of records designated for accelerated release may be too sensitive in nature to be released. The records on East Timor include material in this category, including:

  • Cabinet records and records revealing Cabinet deliberations;
  • both Australian and foreign intelligence information.
  • records containing information that, if released, could reasonably be expected to damage Australia's international relations; and
  • information that, if released, could endanger the life or physical safety of any person.

The records excluded from accelerated access will be subject to the usual access and appeal provisions of the Archives Act when they reach 30 years of age.

The National Archives is responsible for drafting and managing the accelerated access arrangements and for the operation of accelerated access as a whole, including making the records available to the public in its reading rooms.

The Archives does not undertake the access examination of records subject to accelerated release. It is the responsibility of the controlling agency to satisfy itself that the records are suitable for public release and to undertake any necessary consultation with other agencies or governments in clearing them for release.


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