Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee: Questions on Notice
At the request of Senator Pratt, I move:
(1) The Senate notes:
(a) the failure of the Attorney-General and officers of the Attorney-General's Department to provide any responses to many of the questions asked in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into the nature and scope of any agreement reached by the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments in relation to the distribution of proceeds of the liquidation of, and litigation concerning, the Bell Group of companies (the proceeds);
(b) answers to these questions would enable clear facts to be established regarding the Commonwealth's actions, and give the public confidence the Commonwealth is acting consistent with its constitutional responsibilities and protecting its position with the states; and
(c) the failure to provide answers has significantly compromised the ability of the committee to fulfil the terms of reference of the inquiry.
(2) The Senate requires the Attorney-General, by 12.45 pm on 29 March 2017, to provide answers to the committee to questions taken on notice by him or officers of the Attorney-General's Department, listed in Appendix 1 of the committee's interim report tabled in the Senate on 22 March 2017, or alternatively make a substantive claim of public interest immunity that is acceptable to the Senate.
(3) The committee report to the Senate on the Attorney-General's compliance with this resolution on 29 March 2017.
(4) The Senate requires that the Attorney-General be in the Senate at 9.30 am on 30 March 2017, so that a senator may ask the Attorney-General for an explanation in connection with his actions on this matter, and at the conclusion of the explanation any senator may move a motion to take note of the explanation; or if the Attorney-General fails to provide an explanation, any senator may move to take note of his failure to do so.
The government opposes this motion as unnecessary and a waste of the Senate's time. The Attorney-General tabled answers to the outstanding questions on notice on 23 and 24 March. Those answers included a comprehensive explanation of the basis of the claims of public interest immunity, referring to well settled legal principles.