Senator Wong—Quite a lot of advice has been provided to me.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Has other advice on the coalition policy been provided by the department to you?
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Is that advice in the nature of costings or estimates? What type of advice exists?
Senator Wong—It is a range of advice.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Why won’t you release that advice and government costings of the coalition’s policy?
Senator Wong—I have released a summary, which is on the public record. As I recall, you and your colleagues were critical of me having released that.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Would you describe the government analysis of the opposition policy as somehow being commercial-in-confidence?
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Can you give a particular reason as to why it would not be released?
Senator Wong—I have not released it.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—Why have you not released it?
Senator Wong—Because I have not released it. We have released a summary of the analysis.
Senator BIRMINGHAM—You do not understand the word ‘why’?
Senator BIRMINGHAM—With all due respect, this is not advice on government policy; this is advice on opposition policy. You seem to find it convenient to release a two-page summary brief, with a table attached.
Last year then Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans made this comment after an Estimates round:
"On at least eight occasions ministers and officers invoked the claimed principle that advice to government is not disclosed. This is demonstrably false, as it is contradicted by all the occasions on which such advice has been disclosed....... What seems to be really meant by these statements is that advice is disclosed when the government chooses to do so."