Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security

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The Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, also known as the First Hope Commission, was a Royal Commission established on 21 August 1974 by Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to investigate the country's intelligence agencies—to investigate and report into the structure of Australian security and intelligence services, the nature and scope of the intelligence required and the machinery for ministerial control, direction and coordination of the security services. The commission was led by Justice Robert Hope. It concluded its work in 1977,[1] during the Prime Ministership of Malcolm Fraser.


The commission was established following the 1973 Murphy raids on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).[2]

The Secretary of the Department of Defence, Arthur Tange controversially ordered that the Commission "should not be told too much" because this would put the Five Eyes alliance in jeopardy. As a result, the Commission was not granted access to the satellite tracking station at Pine Gap.[3]


The Hope Royal Commission delivered eight reports, four of which were tabled in Parliament on 5 May 1977 and 25 October 1977. In his report, Hope asserted that Australia's intelligence agencies were too close to those in the UK and the US, as part of the five-nation UKUSA Agreement (commonly called Five Eyes).[4]

Results from the other reports included the establishment of the Office of National Assessments (ONA) as a statutory body independent from government with the passage of the Office of National Assessments Act 1977, and the reform of ASIO by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.[5] ONA reported directly to the Prime Minister to provide foreign intelligence assessments on political, strategic and economic issues.[6][7] ONA began operations on 20 February 1978, and assumed the Joint Intelligence Organisation's foreign intelligence assessment role. The Joint Intelligence Organisation retained its defence intelligence assessment role until it was restructured as the Defence Intelligence Organisation in 1990.[8]

The Defence Signals Division was renamed Defence Signals Directorate.

Aside from the observation that ASIS was 'singularly well run and well managed', the report(s) on ASIS were not released, but on 25 October 1977, Fraser publicly announced the existence of ASIS and its functions on the Commission's recommendation.[9]

Release of commission papers[edit]

On 27 May 2008, the records of the commission were partly released to the public.[2] As of 2014, many declassified documents authored by the commission remain redacted.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Australia's Cold War spooks revealed". Television New Zealand. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  3. ^ Dibb, Paul (31 May 2008). "How spies won turf war". The Australian. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Robert Marsden Hope and Australian Public Policy" (PDF). Office of National Assessments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  5. ^ Parliament of Australia Bills Digest No. 11 of 2001–02 Archived 6 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine. of Intelligence Services Act 2001. This document contains numerous references upon which this article is based.
  6. ^ National Archives of Australia Records of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security
  7. ^ Gyngell, A. and Wesley, M. (2003) Making Australian Foreign Policy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. (page 146)
  8. ^ Office of National Assessments History of the ONA
  9. ^ Mr Malcolm Fraser, 'Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security', Ministerial Statement, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1977, p. 2339

External links[edit]