Wednesday, 24 November 2021
National Cabinet; Order for the Production of Documents
That, noting the Senate resolution of 23 November 2021 relating to National Cabinet and public interest immunity claims, there be laid on the table by the relevant ministers, by no later than 9 am Tuesday, 30 November 2021, the documents required by any Senate order, committee resolution or question on notice to which a claim of public interest immunity was made on the unacceptable ground that material related to the National Cabinet is subject to Cabinet confidentiality, including material required under:
(a) the Senate order relating to Doherty Institute modelling (No. 1208);
(b) Senate orders adopting the recommendations of the second interim report of the Select Committee on COVID-19; and
(c) questions on notice asked in the Senate or in the course of a committee inquiry.
It remains the view of the government that national cabinet was established as a committee of cabinet and that its documents and deliberations should remain confidential. On 17 September this year, the Prime Minister and all the leaders of state and territory governments made it clear that the national cabinet has strengthened relationships by facilitating regular confidential discussions in the national interest, founded on the same principles of trust, confidence and collaboration which underpin state, territory and Commonwealth cabinets.
Cabinet confidentiality is a longstanding principle of the Westminster system of government and a well-established ground for a claim of public interest immunity with respect to orders by the Senate. The release of documents required by any Senate order, committee resolution or question on notice to which a public interest immunity claim has been made on the grounds of their being related to deliberations of national cabinet would unacceptably breach the convention of cabinet confidentiality, which ought to be respected by the Senate.