Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says someone “had a shocker” when they let filing cabinets containing secret and highly sensitive documents end up at a Canberra second-hand shop.
The Department of Prime Minister and cabinet launched an urgent investigation yesterday after the ABC revealed it had obtained thousands of cabinet papers covering five governments over a decade.
The treasure trove of documents, some classified “top secret”, was sold cheaply at a second-hand shop in Canberra which stocked ex-government furniture.
The filing cabinets were unlocked with a drill months later.
Joyce said the person responsible for losing the documents would have serious questions to answer.
“Obviously someone’s had a shocker and the investigation will find out exactly how this happened,” Joyce said.
Cabinet papers are legally supposed to remain secret for 20 years after their production.
“In the process of running a country there are things which go awry. This is one of them,” Joyce said.
The ABC said it had chosen not to publish many of the documents because of their classified nature.
Joyce commended the national broadcaster’s handling of the papers, saying he believed they had acted in the national interest.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said he believed a junior or mid-ranking departmental officer was to blame and insisted they must “pay a price”.
“Not so much a cabinet leak as a leaked cabinet that seems to be the problem,” Abbott said. AAP