Tuesday, 19 June 2018
Department of Health; Order for the Production of Documents
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) in May 2016, Maddocks Lawyers completed a report for the then Minister for Health, Ms Ley, and the Department of Health in relation to the Australian survivors of thalidomide, focusing on the relationship and responsibility of the Australian Government towards these survivors,
(ii) in October 2016, Thalidomide Group Australia submitted an application to the Department of Health seeking access to this report under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and
(iii) in November 2016, the Department of Health refused access to this document to Thalidomide Group Australia, citing that the document is subject to legal professional privilege; and
(b) orders that there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by no later than 3 pm on 20 June 2018, a copy of the report prepared by Maddocks Lawyers for former Minister Ley and the Department of Health in May 2016.
The government opposes the motion. The government maintains that it is not in the public interest to depart from the established position which has been maintained over many years by successive governments—that being to not disclose privileged legal advice. It is integral that privileged legal advice provided to the Commonwealth remain confidential. Access by government to such confidential advice is, in practical terms, critical to the development of sound Commonwealth policy and robust lawmaking.