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Hundreds of Australian secret files found in shop


IANS Sydney
Hundreds of secret and classified documents were found in locked file cabinets at a second-hand furniture store, leading to an investigation into "one of the biggest breaches of Cabinet security in Australian history".
The Australian government on Wednesday ordered the probe into how hundreds of exclusive documents relating to national security, immigration, welfare, communications and controversial racial discrimination laws ended up at the shop in Canberra.
The documents were obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). It said the files had been found in filing cabinets purchased by an unidentified person from the shop where ex-government furniture is sold cheaply.
Later, the buyer broke the locks and found thousands of official documents that were eventually handed over to the ABC, which named the treasure as the "Cabinet Files".
The broadcaster published a series of exclusive reports earlier this week, citing Cabinet files from current and previous governments.
"The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys," the ABC said in its report.
"They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill."
Australian Cabinet documents are normally sealed and kept confidential until they are released to the public 20 years later. The documents reported this week were said to delve into the workings of five previous governments over the last decade.
The second-hand shop is open to any individual, so in a hypothetical case the documents could have ended up in the hands of "foreign agents or governments", said an official.
According to a file among the recovered documents, the Australian Police lost 400 security documents between 2008 and 2013, of which the whereabouts of a large part remain unknown.
The files revealed that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government had considered denying welfare to people under 30.
One of the file stated that Former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were warned about risks of a home insulation scheme that later claimed four lives.
It also mentioned that former Prime Minister John Howard's administration had debated removing the right of people to remain silent under police questioning.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 2:12 PM IST

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