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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Senate Committee to open up Government claims of commercial in confidence

An impasse was broken on Thursday over the Federal Government's legislation bill on telecommunications regulatory reform, previously stuck in the Senate as a result of the Government's refusal to comply with an order to produce documents and information on commercial-in-confidence grounds concerning the National Broadband Network. According to AAP in The Australian, the Government won 30-29 on a motion to debate the bill with the support of all the crossbenchers. The clincher, according to Senator Xenophon's office was the Government's agreement to a Senate Committee inquiry into the use of commercial in confidence by government to report back in the first sitting week of next year, ahead of a debate on the draft laws to set up the National Broadband Network. In an earlier debate in the Senate last week Senator Brown (Australian Greens), on the subject of commercial in confidence generally observed:
"In all of my parliamentary life one bane that has been consistent is governments of both persuasions resorting to commercial-in-confidence excuses for blocking from going to parliament information that is required for proper decisions to be made."

Senator Brown went on to say
"Freedom of information ought to have been legislated long ago for the private sector as well as for the public sector because the private sector—as we have just witnessed from the global financial crisis and the need to put its way billions of dollars from the public sector as with the stimulus packages, which are getting up towards $100 billion of taxpayers’ money—is very, very dependent upon the largesse of taxpayers. It cannot resort to secrecy then when taxpayers’ representatives in the form of senators want to look at information which is critical to making decisions."
Thanks to
Open Australia for the Hansard link.

Perhaps in the course of the Senate inquiry someone will raise the silence since about the Government intention announced in March by Minister Faulkner, that the Australian Law Reform Commission be asked to look at FOI or alternative access and disclosure law for the private sector?


  1. Peter

    You could have at least made a reference to the Anything Goes post....

    On the question of silence, you will find that much of the crusade being pursued by Senator Faulkner will go slower following his move to Defence.

    However, I think the PM remains committed to the agenda - but some of his Ministers - and certainly the bureaucracy - will fear any reforms.

    The short way to ensure that the question you pose gets considered by the committee will be to make a submission and to seek an invitation to appear before the committee.

  2. David,
    Happy to mention Anything Goes at

    Slow- glacial more like it.