CJ Coventry deposited Origins of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security on Humanities Commons 9 months ago
This thesis explores the context in which the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, 1974-1977 came to be. The Whitlam Government wanted to reform the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) so as to depoliticise it and make it more effective in combating genuine threats to the state, including global terrorism. In early 1973 the government’s reform was stalled as a result of the attorney-general’s raid on ASIO offices. The Prime Minister announced in late 1973 that an inquiry into ASIO would arise at some point. The Australian Labor Party took the idea of a judicial inquiry into Australia’s intelligence and security apparatus to the 1974 election. Within weeks of returning to office the Whitlam Government decided to launch the Royal Commission. Even by the time of the government’s dismissal in 1975 the process of ASIO’s reform was advanced. The decision to keep ASIO was made by Labor prior to the 1972 election. This was despite experiencing two decades of ASIO’s ideological partisanship, which had consequences for Labor. But the party’s decision was not inconsistent with its history, having been an anti-communist party from the 1920s and responsible for ASIO’s creation in 1949. The Royal Commission’s terms of reference ensured that an intelligence apparatus would continue to be available to the Commonwealth. The decision to erect the Royal Commission was also widely supported by major Australian newspapers. When the Royal Commission finished in 1977 a lasting bipartisan consensus on ASIO was emerging.