Senate debates

Monday, 18 October 2021


Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Equity Investments and Other Measures) Bill 2021; In Committee

6:58 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Far from it being hastily tacked on, this is an amendment that would make sure that the investment decisions that are made by Efic are not exempt from freedom of information. This is just classic form from the government that want to hide anything, mostly because they're up to their necks in it and it's dodgy stuff that they want to hide. But it's not just us who have recommended this. The Productivity Commission have previously recommended that the FOI exemptions for Efic be removed. They noted, rightly so, that the FOI Act already has protections for national security and commercially sensitive data. There's no good reason for this additional shroud of secrecy to be applied to Efic, and that's exactly what this well-considered and succinctly drafted amendment would achieve. We need more transparency about government spending of public money in this place, not less. It's shocking that the opposition is once again siding with the government to let the government give money to and take an equity stake in fossil fuel projects, and is happy to let that continue to be concealed from freedom of information. I'm incredulous, sometimes, at the lack of opposition from this opposition.

I want to point out that the submission from Jubilee Australia Research Centre, ACF and ActionAid—a joint submission—to the Senate inquiry into this bill also objected to the lack of transparency around the investment activities of EFIC and called for the removal of EFIC's exemption. They made the valid point that limiting access to this information undermines efforts to audit the effectiveness of the fund or the projects it funds, or to even assess the return on investment for public money. It's like putting this money into a black box, and then no-one can ask any questions about it. And this government now wants an even bigger blank cheque to say, 'We want to be able to take equity stakes now, but, no, you can't ask anything under freedom of information about whether it's good value for money or whether there was any environmental or social assessment undertaken in a decision to fund this project.' It is a complete black-box process. It's an absolute farce, and that is exactly why we are moving to say: do as the Productivity Commission recommended and remove this FOI exemption. This is public money being spent. It should be made public. It's not a difficult concept.

I object to the notion that this was hastily tacked on. This is a fundamental principle. The expenditure of public money should be made public, and the deliberations of an agency which has been given a massively expanded jurisdiction should be subject to scrutiny by the public, considering it's their money. With that, I commend the amendment.


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