Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Parliamentary Service Amendment (Freedom of Information) Bill 2013; Second Reading
I will make a very short contribution. I think Senator Williams said that I had 2½ minutes, which is very generous of him. I indicate that the controversy in relation to this bill is that there is a perception that the parliament is exempt from the standards of freedom of information. I note that the second reading speech of this bill refers to this as an interim measure. It is a transitional measure, pending a review—an overall review; a long overdue review—of freedom of information legislation.
It is clear that there are some circumstances, when a parliamentarian obtains information, where there are good public interest reasons for that information not to be disclosed, particularly if you are dealing with constituents and other sensitive matters. I think that that would fetter the work of a parliamentarian. The amendments moved by Senator Rhiannon appear to me to be quite sensible. They are attempting to deal with matters that are currently the subject of the review, but I think that these amendments would improve this bill appreciably. It would lead to greater transparency, in a way that would not fetter the work of members of parliament when they are dealing with constituents or on matters where privilege may apply.
For those reasons, I can indicate that, whilst I support the bill with some reservations, I think this bill would be significantly improved with the amendments that Senator Rhiannon has proposed. I hope that these amendments will at least be considered seriously by my colleagues on both sides.