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AGAINST – Documents — Department of Education: Startup Year Program; Order for the Production of Documents

Sarah Henderson

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that order for production of documents no. 186 relating to consultation on the Startup Year program was agreed by the Senate on 21 March 2023;

(b) further notes that the order has only partially been complied with, as the Minister representing the Minister for Education has not tabled:

(i) some submissions, on the basis that the authors have not agreed to publication, and

(ii) all data collected in the student survey; and

(c) also notes that the Minister for Education, in his response of 23 March 2023, has made a claim of public interest immunity (PII) with respect to submissions where the author has not agreed to publication, claiming 'it is not in the public interest to depart from the established practice of allowing stakeholders to make submissions in a consultation process that are not shared beyond the Government of the day', and 'to break this convention would undermine future consultation processes and is not in the public interest';

(d) rejects the PII claim, noting that claims that information has been collected on the condition that it may be treated as confidential at the discretion of the author, and therefore cannot be disclosed, is not in itself a ground for a PII claim and that it must be established that:

(i) some specific harm may occur because of the disclosure of the information sought by the order, and

(ii) any such specific harm could not be overcome by disclosing information in more general terms such as not disclosing the identity of the author; and

(e) orders that the Minister representing the Minister for Education fully comply with the order by no later than midday on Thursday, 30 March 2023, with the exception that all data collected as part of the student survey be deidentified.

Anthony Chisholm

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Sue Lines

Leave is granted for one minute.

Anthony Chisholm

As the senator is aware, the Department of Education has published 24 submissions where the author consented to publication. At the minister's direction, the department has now directly contacted each of the remaining 14 authors. So far two have consented to their submissions being published, and they will be added to the website later today. If the consent of other authors is obtained, their submissions will be published in the same way. It would undermine future consultation processes to publish submissions without their consent.

I understand that the minister discussed this with Senator Henderson last week and agreed for the bill to be referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for review. That review will take place next month and is open for submissions now. Like the motion before it, this motion is unnecessary.

Sue Lines

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Henderson be agreed to.


Date and time: 4:17 PM on 2023-03-29
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 26
Total number of "no" votes: 31
Total number of abstentions: 19

Adapted from information made available by