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Cabinet Safe — M89North Wing, Main Floor

This room adjoins the Cabinet Room (M88) and was used as a safe to store Cabinet submissions and other highly confidential papers. Cabinet is the group of senior Ministers who meet to make nearly all the major decisions of government. Cabinet meetings are confidential and secret; even new governments are not allowed to see the records of a previous government’s meetings, as records of decisions are not released for 20 years and the Cabinet notebooks for 30 years. Until changes to the Archives Act in 2010, these closed periods were even longer. The change to access periods is being phased in over a ten-year period. In the Cabinet Room members of the government can argue and disagree, but when decisions are debated openly in Parliament the government presents a united voice. Many of the decisions made in this room still have an effect upon all Australians, our democratic society, and our relationship with the rest of the world.

Due to the highly confidential nature of Cabinet meetings, it was a high priority to keep the area and documents secure. The room was soundproofed and was swept regularly for bugs by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The door between the anteroom and the Cabinet Room was soundproofed—even the Prime Minister’s own staff could not be allowed to overhear the discussions that took place in this room. There were persistent rumours that members of the Press had devised ways of listening in to Cabinet meetings, but these rumours were never proven. After 1973 the door into the corridor outside the Cabinet Room, used by Hansard reporters during Premiers’ conferences, was provided with double doors and a narrow airlock for the same reason.