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.