“The Government remains extremely concerned about the unauthorised and irresponsible distribution of classified material.”
This report identifies some criminal statutes that may apply [to dissemination of classified documents], but notes that these have been used almost exclusively to prosecute individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents, or to foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship.
has caused, or is likely or intended to cause, harm to identified public interests: damage the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth; prejudice the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of criminal offences;endanger the life or physical safety of any person; or prejudice the protection of public safety.
Importantly the ALRC recommends [6-4] the offence should require intention on the part of an officer to cause the harm, or reckless indifference whether this will result.The broad definition of Commonwealth officer [6-1] whose conduct would be regulated would extend to the Governor General, ministers and parliamentary secretaries- all reasonable enough, but interesting to see how this goes.
Potentially controversial recommendations [6-6, 6-7] are that any subsequent disclosure of information of this kind, for example by a journalist, should be an offence. It's easy to see the free speech arguments that are likely to emerge but it shouldn't get lost in transmission that there are three elements to this offence: (a) the information has been disclosed by A to B in breach of the general secrecy offence; B knows, or is reckless as to whether, the information has been disclosed in breach of the general secrecy offence; and B knows, intends or is reckless as to whether the subsequent disclosure will harm—or knows or is reckless as to whether the subsequent disclosure is reasonably likely to harm—one of the specified public interests.