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    4.14 Security and management of Cabinet information

    Cabinet is the highest decision-making body in government and therefore matters discussed have significant implications for the State, private sector business and individuals. The unauthorised and/or premature disclosure of matters contained in Cabinet documents (Cabinet-in-Confidence information) can be damaging to the public policy agenda and the government generally, and to the public interest. Unlawful disclosure of Cabinet-in-Confidence information may constitute an offence under the Criminal Code, Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 and constitute corrupt conduct under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.

    Offence provisions relating to unlawful disclosure of Cabinet-in-Confidence information relates to both electronic and hardcopy forms of information.

    For the purpose of this chapter, "Cabinet documents" includes any document, that if disclosed would reveal any consideration of Cabinet, or otherwise prejudice the confidentiality of Cabinet considerations or operations. As defined in Chapter 1.6 "Definition of Cabinet documents", the range of documents that are considered as Cabinet documents is extremely broad and can include any information that is prepared as part of Cabinet policy development, consultative processes, and/or during Cabinet submission drafting. These documents, whether maintained in electronic and/or hardcopy form, must be the subject to the same security consciousness as any documents actually considered by Cabinet or generated as a result of Cabinet's deliberations.

    Ministers and Chief Executive Officers are accountable for Cabinet-in-Confidence information held within their respective portfolios/departments, and accordingly they must be satisfied with the adequacy of measures designed to protect the security and confidentiality of that information.

    Should a breach of security be suspected or detected in relation to Cabinet-in-Confidence information, the Cabinet Secretary should be notified immediately.

    4.14.1 Filing and storage of Cabinet documents

    Security measures governing the filing and storage of electronic and hardcopy Cabinet documents need to be tailored to each department's information management systems and business environment to ensure high security and reduce the risk of unauthorised disclosure of information.

    Security measures will typically be a blend of technological solutions and administrative safeguards, with the former being determined on the basis of advice of information technology specialists conversant with the department's information systems. Technological solutions will need to be targeted to provide for an acceptable security profile on critical areas of information systems involving the transmission or storage of Cabinet-in-Confidence information.

    Hardcopy Cabinet-in-Confidence documents must be filed on dedicated files held within dedicated secure storage areas, and not on general purpose files which are generally accessible and circulated without access controls. Similarly electronic information must be stored in dedicated secure drives and directory structures, and not in areas which are generally accessible to unauthorised officers.

    Other issues which should be considered in connection with departmental information systems are:

    • password protected screen-savers should be installed on the personal computers where officers have access to Cabinet-in-Confidence information;
    • system safeguards should ensure that a high level of security on Cabinet-in-Confidence information against incursion by external parties via network and internet connections; and
    • administrative practices should govern the printing of Cabinet-in-Confidence information and the subsequent secure disposal of that printed information.

    Access to Cabinet-in-Confidence information, whether in hardcopy or electronic form, must be administered closely, with access being granted only on the authority of the CLLO or other designated delegate(s) of the Minister and Chief Executive Officer. Refer to Chapter 4.15 for further information regarding access to Cabinet documents.

    During development or consideration of Cabinet proposals, departments should be vigilant as to the confidential status of the information, and actively work towards keeping working documents to a minimum. On finalisation of Cabinet submissions, "draft" versions should be deleted or disposed of in favour of a master final original copy maintained by the CLLO and/or official copies circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat. Disposal of documents must be in accordance with the provisions of the Public Records Act 2002 governing the disposal of public records.

    Administrative practices, to a standard approved by the Minister and Chief Executive Officer, must govern the secure filing and storage of Cabinet-in-Confidence information beginning at the time of its creation. Regular audits must be conducted by departments to ensure compliance.

    On change of government, all forms of Cabinet documents must be treated in strict accordance with "Caretaker conventions" as outlined in the Guidelines on the Caretaker Conventions (PDF, 199KB).

    4.14.2 Copying of Cabinet documents

    Apart from copying associated with the lodgement process for Cabinet submissions, copying of Cabinet documents circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat is not permitted. These documents include Cabinet submissions and attachments, decisions, minutes of proceedings, business lists and Department of the Premier and Cabinet briefing notes.

    All requests for copies of these documents must be directed in writing to the Cabinet Secretary through the CLLO. If approved, copies will be provided on "Cabinet Secretariat Official Copy" paper printed for the purpose.

    4.14.3 Security measures on circulated Cabinet documents

    All Cabinet documents circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat are uniquely bar-coded with circulation details recorded in a computerised database. On return of Cabinet documents, the bar codes are individually scanned into the database which finalises the records. Documents that have not been returned are classified as outstanding.

    The Cabinet Secretariat will periodically conduct audits of outstanding Cabinet documents (ie. those submissions and decisions that have been circulated for perusal and return).

    In the event of loss of these documents, the procedure outlined in Chapter 4.14.6 "Loss of Cabinet documents"should be followed.

    4.14.4 Retention of Cabinet documents

    Departments are entitled to retain Cabinet documents circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat provided that they are issued for ongoing records purposes, that is where there is implementation responsibility ("Gold", "Silver", "Green" or "Pink" copy decision) or some other departmental interest has been established ("Blue" or "Pink" decision). All other documents issued for perusal and return ("White" decision) must be returned promptly to the Cabinet Secretariat.

    If a department wishes to retain a document circulated for perusal and return, the department will be required to provide a written request to the Cabinet Secretary.

    4.14.5 Disposal of Cabinet documents

    The Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for the destruction of all Cabinet documents that have been circulated as part of the official Cabinet record and are no longer required by departments. These documents include Cabinet submissions and attachments, decisions, minutes of proceedings, business lists and Department of the Premier and Cabinet briefing notes.

    All documents that are not required for implementation action must be returned to the Cabinet Secretariat with a covering letter listing all documents being returned. After recording the return of the documents, secure disposal will be undertaken. If after return of a document a department subsequently requires access to that document, a request for an official copy can be directed in writing to the Cabinet Secretary through the CLLO. Refer to Chapter 4.15 "Access to Cabinet documents" for further information.

    At the beginning of the caretaker period and in accordance with instructions issued by the Cabinet Secretary, all Cabinet documents previously circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat as part of the official Cabinet record that are held in ministerial and departmental offices should be clearly identified and prepared for possible return to the Cabinet Secretariat for disposal purposes.

    At a change of government, these documents must be returned to the Cabinet Secretariat for disposal.

    All other Cabinet documents not circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat, such as working papers and general correspondence on Cabinet proposals, may be disposed of by the department without recourse to the Cabinet Secretariat. Departments should however ensure that any such action is in accordance with the provisions of the Public Records Act 2002 governing the disposal of public records.

    4.14.6 Loss of Cabinet documents

    As explained in this chapter, unauthorised disclosure of Cabinet information can have significant implications for the State and other bodies and individuals affected by decisions. Furthermore, unlawful disclosure of Cabinet information may constitute an offence under the Criminal Code, the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994, and constitute corrupt conduct under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.

    The loss of Cabinet documents held by departments is a serious issue that may have serious implications as previously discussed.

    Immediately upon discovery of the loss of a Cabinet document circulated by the Cabinet Secretariat, the matter must be reported to the Cabinet Secretary. The Minister or the Chief Executive Officer, as the accountable officers, must then instigate an appropriate investigation into the issue. In cases where it is suspected that the loss can be attributed to unlawful activity, the matter should be referred to the Queensland Police or the Crime and Corruption Commission for investigation depending upon circumstances.

    Upon conclusion of investigations, and if the Cabinet document in question has not been recovered, the Chief Executive Officer will be required to provide official notification of the loss in writing to the Cabinet Secretary. This notification will be used to finalise the outstanding status of the document on the database maintained by the Cabinet Secretariat. Depending on the circumstances of the matter, the notification may be required to be drawn to the attention of the Premier as Chairperson of Cabinet.

    The notification must take the following minimum form. Additional information may be provided where considered necessary.

    insert date

    The Cabinet Secretary
    Cabinet Secretariat
    Level 40, 1 William Street

    Dear insert name

    An audit of Cabinet documents issued to name of Department or Minister has highlighted the loss of the following Cabinet document:

    Document TypeDateDocument NumberTitle
    (Submission, Decision, etc.)(Cabinet Date)(Submission, Decision Number)(Title of Document)

    The matter has been investigated and an extensive search has failed to locate the document. All appropriate and necessary actions have been taken in respect of this matter.

    Please amend the Cabinet records with regards to the loss of the above document.

    insert signature of Chief Executive Officer
    insert name of Chief Executive Officer

    4.14.7 Queensland State Archives

    Official Cabinet documents should not be sent to the State Archives by Ministers or departments. They must be returned to the Cabinet Secretariat which will pass the documents to the State Archives at the appropriate time.

    After the expiration of a restricted access period, the State Archives will seek approval from the current government whether it wishes to release the records.

    For all Cabinet documents created after 1 July 2009, the restricted access period is 20 years; before this date the restricted access period is 30 years.

    Generally most records upon reaching 30 years of age, or 20 years for documents considered after 1 July 2009, will be released. There may however be instances where it is not desirable for documents to be released because of overriding privacy considerations or other factors in the public interest. In these cases, State Archives will be requested to retain the documents for some additional designated term.

    Prior to the release of documents by the State Archives, the Cabinet Secretary will contact the present leader of the party that formed the government in office during the period the records were created, and afford the opportunity for the leader or nominee to view the documents at the State Archives.

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    Last updated:
    2 September, 2020
    Last reviewed:
    2 September, 2020