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Friday, June 19, 2009

Everything fine and dandy in NSW parliament

When asked in the Legislative Council yesterday about why the NSW Parliament would not be subject to the Government Information (Public Access) Bill the Attorney General John Hazistergos said it was a silly question and that the President of the Legislative Council and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly had explained the reasons for the decision. He said citing examples of where this had occurred elsewhere, like the UK, was inappropriate "cherry picking" because " how we do business in this Parliament, the checks and balances that exist in New South Wales are not replicated in every other jurisdiction" and "freedom of information legislation in this State and throughout Australia is about keeping the Executive accountable. There are other means for keeping the Parliament accountable."

Just what those means are is not apparent. And-if applying the law to the legislature poses a problem- why the Government has not asked Parliament itself to consider embracing higher standards of accountability and transparency has not been explained. The Attorney General has been a vociferous opponent of a Human Rights Bill or Charter for Australia on the basis that parliament, not unelected judges should strike the right balance in protecting rights. Yet when it comes to a system to ensure the right to know about the day to day operations of Parliament in spending the $123 million allocated in this week's state budget, it is not even a topic worth discussing.

So no more pesky questions please about the
$100 million in the Budget for "Members' Support" or how much each member is paid in entitlements or how travel, electoral or other allowances are spent. Just look forward with anticipation to next year's annual report for a few high level details.

Trust us, we're the NSW Parliament.


  1. Anonymous9:48 am

    So, maybe "public access" doesn't really mean public access.

    Could the government please release its dictionary so we all know what these weasel words actually mean.

  2. Anonymous11:32 am

    There's a long pedigree for this view dating back to Dicey, meaning elections are supposedly the other means by which the Parliament is kept accountable... But I think when you look at the whole picture the Executive and the Parliament in NSW are virtually indistinguishable - just consider the quality of the so-called debates on bills in the legislative process...