Thursday, 1 June 2023
As chair of the Standing Committee on Economics, I rise to report back to the House on a significant matter that I raised earlier this week. On Tuesday I informed the House of an unauthorised disclosure of the contents of a private meeting with the Reserve Bank governor, Mr Philip Lowe, on 24 May. As I noted on Tuesday, details of the briefing subsequently appeared in two articles in the Australian Financial Review on 24 May and 26 May. The committee considered this matter yesterday and agreed that these articles are the result of an unauthorised disclosure in clear contravention of standing order 240(2)(b). In investigating this matter, the committee has concluded that on this occasion the unauthorised disclosure is unlikely to have caused substantial difference to the work of the committee or the House such as to amount to a potential contempt under the Parliamentary Privileges Act. However, the committee does consider that the incident is extremely disappointing and potentially damaging to the future activities of the committee.
Each member of the committee and the secretariat gave an assurance that they had not disclose the contents of the committee's report or proceedings to any person not authorised to receive the information. In light of this, the committee's view is that it would be difficult to determine with any certainty the source of the disclosure. It is highly regrettable that this serious breach of standards has occurred, given that the Economics Committee is an important, policy-focused committee which has benefited greatly from good-faith interactions with regulators, experts and stakeholders from across the financial sector and the broader economy. I stress that those who leak confidential committee deliberations demonstrate a lack of respect for their colleagues and for parliament while undermining public trust in our democracy. I again remind all those involved with parliamentary committee processes of the importance of observing the rules against unauthorised disclosure of proceedings. Such breaches erode public trust and have a clear adverse impact on our work as committee members and as stewards of the parliament's reputation. I thank the House.