The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has initiated "an urgent investigation". But the network says there was no leak and that no one broke the law - instead, someone finally got around to drilling out the locks on the two heavy cabinets that had been sold without any matching keys.
The filing cabinets sat unopened for some months in the home of the buyer who eventually chose to drill them open.
The broadcaster said the files could easily have fallen into the wrong hands as the sale was not limited to Australians and the documents could have been passed on to a foreign agent or government.
"We think it would be highly undesirable (and legally confounding) if the Commonwealth were to simply produce cabinet-related documents to the royal commission on the basis of a purported waiver of public interest immunity", read the advice from Tom Howe QC, chief counsel at the Australian Government Solicitor.
The documents spanned almost a decade, revealing the inner workings of five separate governments in the country.
"They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill".
The ABC reported on Thursday that Rudd was launching legal action against it for its reporting on the contents of the files. Since they came from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the news organization is referring to them as the "Cabinet Files". They did not reveal when the cabinets were sold or when the documents were discovered.
The state-owned broadcaster said it had chosen not to report some documents on national security grounds. The files detailed national security briefs, intelligence on Australia's neighbours and counter-terrorism operations.
Some of the files divulge that former Australian Finance Minister Penny Wong left behind around 200 classified documents detailing Middle East defense plans and updates of the Afghanistan war in her old office when her Australian Labor Party was defeated by the Liberal/National coalition in the 2013 federal election.
"As this has commenced it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time", the spokesperson said. It was, the network said, "one of the biggest breaches of cabinet security in Australian history".
According to a file among the recovered documents, the Australian Police lost 400 security documents between 2008 and 2013, of which the whereabouts of a large part remain unknown.
Cabinet documents are not normally released until 20 years after publication.
This photo, provided by South Korea's unification ministry on January 26, 2018, shows Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea. Security Council Resolution 2397 caps North Korea's imports of refined petroleum at 500,000 barrels a year.
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