Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017 (Cth)

Friday 11 August 2017 @ 12.17 p.m. | Immigration

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has introduced the Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017 into the House of Representatives. The Bill sets out to clarify the secrecy and disclosure provisions within the current Australian Border Force Act 2015. It ultimately seeks to reflect the policy intent behind the Act.

The Bill

According to the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, the Bill will:

  • Repeal the current definition of protected information in subsection 4(1) of the Act. Currently, this definition includes any information obtained in a person’s capacity as an entrusted person. Instead, the Bill clarifies the intent of the policy by substituting in it’s a place a definition for Immigration and Border Protection Information. The new definition limits the operation of the secrecy and disclosure provisions to only specific kinds of information.
  • Repeal paragraphs 44(2)(d) and 45(2)(d), removing the current requirements for bodies to which information can be disclosed and classes of information to be prescribed in the Australian Border Force (Secrecy and Disclosure) Rule 2015 to improve efficiency.
  • Allow for additional purposes for which Immigration and Border Protection information that contains personal information can be disclosed such as information relating to inter-country adoption, protection of national security and defence of Australia, and the location of missing persons.

National Security

Mr Dutton explained that the secrecy and disclosure provisions in Part 6 of the Act were adapted from a model that has not kept pace with modern border environments. He said “This environment is complex and dynamic, and updated legislative settings are required to facilitate the evolving work of [the] department.”

Ultimately, he stressed that the Bill aims to provide a level of protection to information provided to department while at the same time ensure that said information can be disclosed when appropriate. He went on to say:

“The bill provides assurances for the Australian public, business, government and foreign partners that sensitive information provided to my department will be appropriately protected, without unnecessarily restricting informed public debate. The retrospective application of the bill (back to the date the Australian Border Force Act was enacted) will provide the necessary certainty that only information which could harm the national or public interest if disclosed is to be protected, and will be regarded as ever having been protected, under the ABF Act.”

Essentially, the Bill seeks to walk the fine line between protecting sensitive information while upholding a commitment to an open and accountable government. 

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Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017, Bill, and Explanatory Materials as Published on TimeBase's LawOne

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