Page 504 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 22 March 2023

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here is an 11-page document. Page 1 is the introduction and page 2 is an executive summary of the risks. Page 3 is completely redacted. Page 4 is completely redacted. Page 5 is completely redacted. Page 6 is completely redacted. On page 7 there are two lines—there is a heading and the rest is completely redacted. On page 8 there is maybe half a page, less than half a page, and the rest redacted. There is a little bit also on page 9. Page 10 is completely redacted. Page 11 is completely redacted.

It makes you ask, Mr Acting Speaker, what is the point? The government are only doing this because they have been compelled to do it. They are not doing it because they believe in transparency and accountability. To try to get this information, to perform our role of scrutinising the government and holding the government to account, we have tried to use many tools—the ones available at our disposal, including standing order 213A, which was introduced in 2019 as part of the Labor-Greens agreement that was signed at the end of 2008 about how to deal with disputes over crown privilege and the tabling of documents. Mr Rattenbury spoke in that debate. But how the tables have turned! How much has the discussion here changed! Now that the Greens are part of government and they have ministers in the government, they do not actually care about transparency and accountability. What they care about is that pattern of cover-up and secrecy. We have seen that in many instances here, including most recently just yesterday with regard to the data privacy issue. These issues do not come to light unless the media have an intervention.

This government thrives on cover-ups. I have said before in this place that it is quite possible the minister has done exactly the right thing, but how would we know? How can we perform our role as an opposition when we are treated like mushrooms? We are treated like mushrooms. Even trying to use all the tools at our disposal in the standing orders and FOI, we are stymied again and again. I think it is quite shameful. I do not really understand how the Greens can lie straight in bed at night, when they argue for something when they are not technically part of government and then when they become part of government they become complicit in trying to stop the opposition from performing their role as an opposition. It is very sad. There are a couple more than 11 pages, but the couple of other pages includes the front cover, the back cover and three pages such as the table of contents. So it is about 15 pages all up, the vast majority of which—maybe 11 pages, maybe 12 pages—has been redacted. Thank you very much, Minister, for your statement and for the release of that heavily redacted document, which is all but useless to an opposition trying to perform their role!

What this does is create a fire. It creates an understanding that there is something to hide. It creates a frenzy of speculation about what is going on, instead of being upfront, instead of coming out with it straight away. We had comments in the Canberra Times just this morning about that, with regard to the data privacy issues that we are talking about this week. Why not be upfront? Why try and hide it as long as possible, as often as possible and as much as possible? Why not just come out with it, saying, “Well, okay. Here it is. This is what we have done”? Instead, you are creating more and more and more questions—more and more unrest. In the meantime, people in the heritage community are unsure exactly what is going on. If you are one of those people who were previously on the heritage council, I think you would be deeply disappointed about the way that this has been handled.

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