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PIDs

The Public Interest Disclosure scheme

The Public Interest Disclosure (PID) scheme promotes integrity and accountability for Australian Government agencies, including Australian intelligence agencies, by encouraging public officials (disclosers) to speak up about suspected wrongdoing. The wrongdoing can have taken place at any time. The scheme protects the confidentiality of disclosers and provides statutory protections against reprisals for both disclosers and witnesses.

Agencies, including intelligence agencies, are required to take action when a disclosure is made. Agencies are also required to keep disclosers informed of actions taken under the scheme in response to their disclosure.

Intelligence agencies report to IGIS about their actions under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013. Other agencies report to the Commonwealth Ombudsman (Ombudsman).

The Ombudsman provides general information applicable to all agencies about how agencies handle and manage PIDs, the types of conduct which may be the subject of a PID and the process of making a disclosure

The role of the IGIS in the Public Interest Disclosure scheme

IGIS has a role in receiving, allocating and investigating PIDs about the conduct of Australian intelligence agencies or the network activity warrant functions of the AFP or the ACIC. 

IGIS’ responsibilities under the PID Act also includes:

  • receiving information from agencies about their handling of PIDs 
  • monitoring the actions of intelligence agencies to ensure they comply with the PID scheme
  • assisting current and former public officials of intelligence agencies in relation to the operation of the PID Act
  • receiving and investigating complaints about the handling of public interest disclosures by intelligence agencies
  • promoting education and awareness about the PID scheme within intelligence agencies. 

Public Interest Disclosures about intelligence agencies and certain agencies’ network activity warrant functions

If a PID is made regarding an intelligence agency or the network activity warrant functions of the AFP or the ACIC, the agency handling the PID must keep IGIS informed of its progress and its follow-up actions. There are specific timeframes within which the agency must provide notice to the IGIS of such disclosures. 

PIDs regarding an intelligence agency or the network activity warrant functions of the AFP or the ACIC can also be made directly to the IGIS, or allocated to the IGIS for investigation by the receiving agency. 

If a PID is made directly to IGIS, the IGIS will carefully consider the most appropriate course of action. This may include allocating the matter to the concerned agency for possible investigation (following consultation with the agency), or the IGIS investigating the disclosure under the PID Act or using the IGIS’ separate investigative powers under the IGIS Act.

Common questions about Public Interest Disclosures

Under the PID scheme, disclosures can be made by current or former 'public officials'. This is a broad term which includes all Australian Government federal public servants (including staff of the intelligence agencies and those employed under the Intelligence Services Act 2001), ADF and AFP members, all staff of statutory agencies and Commonwealth companies as well as contracted service providers. Potential disclosers can also be deemed to be 'public officials' in certain circumstances.

Disclosers can make a PID about an intelligence agency to an authorised officer belonging to the intelligence agency itself, or to the IGIS.  Authorised officers are responsible for receiving, assessing and allocating PIDs. 

Current public officials in intelligence agencies can also make a PID about their agency to an authorised officer through their supervisor. 

See the Ombudsman’s website for general information about how agencies handle and manage PIDs.

Individuals who are current or former 'public officials' may be covered by the protections in the PID Act when making a disclosure to the IGIS.

A disclosers' identity will be kept confidential as far as practicable. It is an offence to provide identifying information about a discloser without their consent, unless there is authority to do so under the PID Act or another Commonwealth law.

Disclosers, potential disclosers, and other persons have immunity from civil, criminal or administrative liability – including disciplinary action – for making a PID, or for providing information or assistance in connection with handling a PID. It is a criminal offence to take, or threaten to take, reprisals against a discloser because they have, or even could, make a PID. 

IGIS has a responsibility to ensure intelligence agencies comply with the PID scheme, including to ensure agencies comply with the requirement to protect disclosers from reprisals. IGIS will examine how the intelligence agency has managed a PID in any case where it is claimed that the discloser suffered from reprisals.

It is best to make a PID directly to the intelligence agency concerned in the first instance wherever possible. If you believe it is not appropriate for the agency to handle the disclosure, you can make a PID to the IGIS. 
If you are concerned about making a PID about an intelligence agency to the agency itself, you can contact us to discuss your options:

To make a PID directly to the IGIS you can email us at PID@IGIS.gov.au