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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Greens skirmish in two states over parliament's right to documents

The case brought by Victorian Greens MLC Greg Barber seeking a declaration that the parliament has power to order production of documents prepared outside Cabinet and considered by Cabinet, or prepared by an independent contractor and considered by Cabinet was back in the Supreme Court last month. 

Barber's suit had survived a bid by the State of Victoria last November to have the matter summarily dismissed. This time around Justice Emerton ruled in favour of the Defendant, rejecting Barber's argument for a single hearing, ordering the following question be heard and determined as a preliminary question at an early date:
Should the Court decline to hear the proceeding on any of the following grounds: (i) there is no justiciable dispute between the parties;
(ii) a claim for a bare declaration as to the powers of Parliament is not justiciable;
(iii) the proceeding seeks relief that is merely hypothetical or advisory and would not determine any rights between the parties;
(iv) the plaintiff does not have standing to bring the proceeding?
In NSW the Legislative Council has broad powers to require production of documents and exercises it regularly, and the sun continues to rise each morning despite claims to the contrary seven years ago by NSW Crown Solicitor Ian Knight.

However The Greens Jeremy Buckingham points out that Parliament may not have got the full story when it called for papers in 2009 concerning one of the issues now before the ICAC where former minister Ian McDonald occupies a very hot seat.

Buckingham says "a mountain of important documents that were hidden from the Parliament,”have been unearthed by the ICAC.
“The urgent question is why these documents were withheld, and who withheld them, and why? “Barry O’Farrell must refer this matter back to ICAC to investigate as soon as possible. The Government must not delay ICAC investigating through an internal Parliamentary Committee.
With the issue of parliament and its NSW prerogatives involved I'm guessing it won't be long before 1689 and all that get another run.

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