Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security – Fact sheet 262

Establishment, conduct and outcomes

The Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security (RCIS) was established by the Whitlam government on 21 August 1974. Robert Marsden Hope, a Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, was named as Royal Commissioner. In summary, Hope’s terms of reference required him to:

  • report on the history of the Australian security and intelligence agencies
  • make recommendations about the future of the agencies to enable them to serve Australia in the most efficient and effective way
  • recommend procedures for the review of adverse security decisions against individuals
  • make recommendations about the machinery for ministerial control, direction and coordination of the security and intelligence services.

 The Royal Commission received submissions from many sources including former ministers and public servants, current and former staff of the security agencies, Australian Government departments and agencies, and the general public. It conducted public and in camera hearings in Canberra, as well as all mainland capitals, and undertook trips to New Zealand, East and South-East Asia, Western Europe and North America to gather information. Its recommendations were contained in eight reports (some consisting of more than one part) presented between March 1976 and April 1977. Many of these were taken up by the Fraser government.

Records of the RCIS

Records of the RCIS held by the National Archives include reports, submissions, evidence provided at hearings and administrative records. Key records, such as those identified below, have been digitised and are available on the collection database, RecordSearch. Further information about the RCIS is also available, including background information on the Royal Commission, a brief guide to the records and a podcast by George Brownbill, former Secretary to the RCIS.

Access to records

Many of the records of the RCIS have been made available for public access. Information included on RecordSearch item entries will indicate where exemptions have been applied. The exemptions include details of relationships between Australian and foreign intelligence agencies; technical, structural details and operational processes of Australian security and intelligence agencies; the names of intelligence officers and agents; and some intelligence reports. An application for access can be lodged for any records that have not been examined.

Reports of the RCIS

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemFirst Report – Procedural matters1976–76A8908, 1
ItemSecond Report – Security vetting and the question of the establishment of a Security Appeals Tribunal1976–76A8908, 2
ItemSecond Report – Security vetting and the question of the establishment of a Security Appeals Tribunal (An annex to the Second Report for limited circulation)1976–76A8908, 2B
ItemThird Report – Intelligence and co-ordination machinery1976–76A8908, 3A
ItemThird Report – Intelligence and co-ordination machinery – abridged findings and recommendations1976–76A8908, 3B
ItemFourth Report – Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Vol. 11976–76A8908, 4A
ItemFourth Report – Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Vol. 2 (Appendices 4A to 4L)1976–76A8908, 4B
ItemFourth Report – Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Vol. 3 (Appendices 4M to 4R)1976–76A8908, 4C
ItemFourth Report – Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation – supplementary report on ASIO (An additional report on ASIO for limited circulation)1976–76A8908, 4D
ItemFifth Report – Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Vol. 11976–76A8908, 5A
ItemFifth Report – Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Vol. 2 (Appendices)1976–76A8908, 5B
ItemSixth Report – Defence Signals Directorate, Vol. 11977–77A8908, 6A
ItemSixth Report – Defence Signals Directorate, Vol. 2 – Appendices 6A to 6K1977–77A8908, 6B
ItemSixth Report – Defence Signals Directorate, Vol. 3 – Appendices 6S, 6T and 6U1977–77A8908, 6C
ItemSeventh Report – Australian Intelligence/Security Services 1900–1950 by J Templeton, Vol. 11977–77A8908, 7A
ItemSeventh Report – Australian Intelligence/Security Services 1900–1950 by J Templeton, Vol. 21977–77A8908, 7B
ItemEighth Report – Disposal and subsequent use of RCIS records1977–77A8908

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