Constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey has attacked legislation that will see the national cabinet become a sub-committee of the federal cabinet. The legislation has been quickly introduced after the Federal Court rejected an attempt by the federal government to label it as such, so as to exclude it from freedom of information laws.
Twomey says the legislation is seeking to achieve a “convenient lie”, while former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Watson, SC, has labelled the legislation as a “joke”.
From The AFR:
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“The FOI Act and the processes under it have now become a tool of obstruction,” former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Geoffrey Watson, SC, said.
“I’m afraid I see transparency having been crushed”…
“History will look at this legislation and say it is something of a joke,” Mr Watson told a Parliamentary inquiry on Monday…
Leading constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey said what the government’s amendments were trying to achieve was “a convenient lie” that brought the Parliament and the law into disrepute.
“First, they defy the self-evident facts, which brings the law into disrepute. Second, they undermine the federal system. Third, they undermine the constitutional principle of responsible government. Fourth, they reduce governmental accountability and transparency,” Dr Twomey said.
Meanwhile, Independent Senator Rex Patrick is so outraged by the legislation that he has introduced an amendment to kill it:
“The Prime Minister has been unable to introduce a ICAC bill in the two years of this Parliament, but can introduce an oversight obstruction Bill in just 28 days,” Senator Patrick said…
“This is typical of Scott Morrison. He’s obsessed with secrecy. He was caught acting outside the law. Now he wants to change the law.”
“I aim to put a stop to that. I have introduced an amendment that will remove Schedule 3 of the Prime Minister’s COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. If supported by the Labor Opposition and crossbench Senators, that amendment will kill the Prime Minister’s secrecy plans stone dead”…
“The Senate should have a very clear understanding of what’s involved here. The Prime Minister’s new secrecy legislation would prevent any external scrutiny of intergovernmental decision making in the ‘National Cabinet’ and ensure that the records of those meetings are confined to the vaults of the National Archives for at least twenty years – long after Scott Morrison has likely left office.”
“This is quite unacceptable. Over the past 18 months the Prime Minister’s ‘National Cabinet’ has made decisions that have affected every Australian and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Australians deserve to know how and why those decisions were made. Transparency is vital for democratic accountability”…
The Committee has already received a number of written submissions, including from the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Governance Institute of Australia, the Grata Fund, Professor Anne Twomey, The Australia Institute, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (‘PM&C’), and Senator Patrick himself.
Only one submission, that of the PM&C supports the Prime Minister’s effort to extend a secrecy blanket over the ‘National Cabinet’. All other submissions are opposed or highly critical.
The ball is in the court of Labor, the Greens and the other cross-benchers. They must block this legislation in the Senate.
Otherwise, what’s the point of having a ‘house of review’ if it always rubber stamps dumb, corrupt legislation?
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