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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Balancing cabinet confidentiality and other considerations

This Federal Parliamentary Library Background Note on Cabinet confidentiality by Dr Mark Rodrigues covers the origins, history and evolution of the concept, and issues concerning leaks, the courts, parliament's rights of access, and Freedom of Information exemptions. Dr Rodrigues concludes that a harm based approach reflecting public interest considerations would strike a better balance than blanket secrecy between the need for confidentiality and the need for open and accountable government. Don't hold your breath.

It is hard to see from the annual Archives release of cabinet documents that harm to any identifiable public interest would result from release of the vast majority of what are generally unexciting cabinet submissions - without the 20-30 year wait.  What is said in the cabinet room is a different matter.

Not referred to in the Background Note is the fact that Queensland leads the country with voluntary publication on this webpage of details of some cabinet decisions at least.  As a first step to better balance, others could follow suit.

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