Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Public Interest Disclosure (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013; Consideration in Detail
by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2) as circulated in my name together:
(1) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 15), after item 7, insert:
7A After subsection 5(4)
(4A) Paragraph (2)(d) does not prevent the Ombudsman from investigating action that, under subsection 5A(1), is taken to relate to a matter of administration.
(2) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (line 29), omit "it", substitute "the conduct, and any action taken by the agency in relation to the disclosure,".
I refer to my contribution to the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013 and the amendments moved to that bill. For the reasons stated in that contribution, I commend the amendments to the House.
The government does not support either of these proposed amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013. Both of them relate to the power of the Ombudsman and neither of these amendments is necessary nor desirable. As to the first, the government is of the view that the arrangements proposed in the consequential amendments bill provide the Ombudsman with sufficient power to have oversight of the public interest disclosure scheme. The Ombudsman supports this view.
The context for this needs to be understood. In the consequential amendments bill the Ombudsman is being given some additional powers in relation to the operation of the public interest disclosure scheme. The amendment that is here proposed by the member for Melbourne would, in the government's view, interfere with the appropriate demarcation of responsibility between the Ombudsman, the Public Service Commissioner and the Parliamentary Service Commissioner. A complaint to the Ombudsman about the handling of a disclosure may include a range of matters, some of which should be handled by the Ombudsman and others of which may be matters that are more appropriately handled by the Public Service Commissioner. The Ombudsman and the Public Service Commissioner already have quite detailed arrangements in place to facilitate the proper handling of matters between them consistent with the respective and different statutory powers that each of them have. What we are concerned to do here is to ensure that in giving additional powers to the Ombudsman and additional responsibilities in relation to public interest disclosure we do not intrude or interfere with those existing arrangements, recognising always that there is this new function being conferred on the Ombudsman.
As to the second amendment, the government does not support it. It is the view of the government that it is unnecessary because any action that is taken or not taken by any agency could, we think, expect to be investigated by the Ombudsman under the Ombudsman's existing jurisdiction to investigate matters of administration either upon complaint or on the own motion powers that are already there in the existing Ombudsman's legislation.