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FOR – Documents — Department of Finance: Budget Estimates; Order for the Production of Documents

Ross Cadell

At the request of Senator Hume, I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) order for production of documents no. 251 was agreed by the Senate on 19 June 2023, requiring the Minister for Finance to table all briefing materials prepared for the Minister by the Department of Finance for the Budget estimates hearings, and all briefing materials prepared by the department for the members of the Senior Executive Service of the department relating to the Budget estimates hearings,

(ii) the Minister for Finance wrote to the President on 30 June 2023 regarding this order and, despite selectively quoting from Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, did not make any claim of public interest immunity over the documents sought, as required by Odgers and past Senate practice,

(iii) the documents referenced in the order are routinely sought and provided under freedom of information legislation, a mechanism with less scope and force than the powers of the Senate, and

(iv) the department keeps digital copies of the documents sought within its document management system specifically so that they are easily accessible;

(b) rejects the inaccurate and evasive claims by the Minister for Finance in her letter of 30 June 2023 that compliance with the order was 'unprecedented and onerous' and would 'change the way that all government departments and agencies prepared for estimates and, indeed, all committee processes in the future'; and

(c) requires the Minister for Finance to comply with the order by no later than midday on Monday, 7 August 2023.

Anthony Chisholm

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Sue Lines

Leave is granted for one minute.

Anthony Chisholm

As noted in the letter of response to Senator Hume's original OPD, the Albanese government recognises and respects the Senate's important scrutiny role. However, we maintain that the scope of documents sought by this motion is unprecedented and burdensome. It risks impairing the ability of agencies to support future estimates hearings and could work against the Senate, its committees, processes and procedures. Contrary to the assertion in Senator Hume's motion, estimates briefings prepared for SES-level officials have never been provided in response to FOI by the Department of Finance, certainly not by the former coalition government, which was allergic to transparency and addicted to secrets, as we all remember. I remind senators of the alternative mechanisms available to scrutinise the government's work, which includes the very detailed freedom-of-information processes.

Sue Lines

The question is that general business notice of motion No. 269, standing in the name of Senator Hume and moved by Senator Cadell, be agreed to.


Date and time: 5:08 PM on 2023-08-02
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 30
Total number of "no" votes: 29
Total number of abstentions: 17

Adapted from information made available by