The National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 protects information from disclosure in federal criminal proceedings and civil court proceedings where the disclosure would be likely to prejudice Australia’s national security.
The Act contains various measures to facilitate the prosecution of an offence without prejudicing national security or the right of a defendant to a fair trial. The Act requires legal representatives and parties to a civil proceeding to receive an appropriate security clearance in order to access security sensitive information. A self-represented litigant involved in a civil matter under Commonwealth law who is refused a security clearance at the appropriate level would be eligible to apply for financial assistance to engage a security-cleared lawyer to represent the party during the closed hearing.
Following extensive parliamentary scrutiny, the Parliament passed the National Security Information (Criminal Proceedings) Act 2004 on 8 December 2004. The Act received Royal Assent on 14 December 2004, although its main provisions in relation to criminal proceedings did not commence until 11 January 2005. The Act was amended by the National Security Information Legislation Amendment Act 2005 which commenced on 3 August 2005. The amendments extended the protections for security sensitive information under the National Security Information (Criminal Proceedings) Act 2004 to include certain civil court proceedings.