The ABC and the federal government have agreed on the return of thousands of sensitive documents obtained by the national broadcaster and meant to remain secret for at least another decade.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet announced it had struck a deal with the ABC for the secure return of the documents on Thursday night.
“This has been achieved without disclosure of the ABC’s source and by way of acknowledgement of the Commonwealth’s national security interests,” the department said.
ASIO officers took custody of the documents late Thursday night from the ABC bureau offices in Parliament House, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“This has been achieved without compromising the ABC’s priority of protecting the integrity of its source and its reporting while acknowledging the Commonwealth’s national security interests,” the ABC said in a statement.
The ABC had revealed on Wednesday papers covering details of five federal government cabinet meetings over a decade had been unsuspectingly sold off in a locked filing cabinet at a second-hand shop in Canberra, which stocked ex-government furniture.
The filing cabinets were unlocked with a drill months later.
Cabinet papers usually remain secret for 20 years.
The ABC’s revelation of the trove of documents, some classified “top secret”, sparked an urgent government investigation.
Officials had secured the documents in a safe at ABC premises on Thursday.
The ABC said it had chosen not to publish many of the documents because of their classified nature.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said this week the person responsible for losing the documents has serious questions to answer.
“Obviously someone’s had a shocker and the investigation will find out exactly how this happened,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.