Senate debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Statements by Senators

COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2021

1:46 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] The Morrison government has just introduced into parliament a proposed law that seeks to overturn Federal Court Justice White's recent judgement that national cabinet is not a real cabinet. I'd have to say that the Prime Minister is a sore loser. He was beaten fair and square in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but, having been found to have acted outside of and contrary to law, Mr Morrison now wants to change the law. He wants to stifle public scrutiny of his national cabinet.

The COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 seeks to exempt national cabinet and its committees from the transparency provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The bill seeks to empower ministers to prevent the disclosure of national cabinet records in AAT hearings. National cabinet's secrets are to be hidden in the deepest and darkest vaults of the National Archives for 20 to 30 years.

This says a lot about the Prime Minister's priorities. He has conspicuously failed to legislate a national anticorruption commission, but he has made time to try and nail down the shutters on the government's decision-making. I repeat: he's found time to shut down transparency; he hasn't bothered at all to introduce an ICAC bill. The PM hates scrutiny. He is allergic to transparency. If the national cabinet amendments in this bill are passed through the parliament, responsible cabinet government will be subverted. Key decisions will be able to be taken in secrecy, without those involved—the Prime Minister and chief ministers—being properly accountable to their respective parliaments. I will be standing up against this assault on government transparency and accountability, and I urge others to do so. (Time expired)