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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Parliament prorogued, bills list wiped clean, end of the siege of the OAIC?

The Governor General has prorogued Parliament with effect from 5pm on 15 April and summoned Parliament to sit for a new session at and from 9.30am on 18 April. The Parliament will sit for three weeks before the Budget on 3 May.

According to the advice from the Attorney General that accompanied the Prime Minister's letter to the Governor General
"The effect of prorogation is that Bills on the Notice paper will lapse but can be restored in the manner set out in the Standing Orders."
The Prime Minister states the reason for recalling Parliament is to enable it to give full and timely consideration to two important parcels of industrial legislation, the ABCC Bills and the Registered Organisations Bill. He adds
"If time permits the Government might also use the additional sitting days to consider other legislation."
One other piece of legislation on the Senate Notice paper since October 2014 is the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill, the bill that would abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner, the independent watchdog and advocate of open, transparent government. The bill which the government has not called on for a vote in 17 months because it does not enjoy majority support will disappear along with others listed at 5pm on 15 April.

Will the bill re-emerge or is this the opportunity to quietly consign this legacy of the Abbott government to the dustbin of history thus providing an indication of serious Turnbull government intent to fully embrace the goals of the Open Government Partnership, goals that the Prime Minister describes as directly aligned with "Australia’s long and proud tradition of open and transparent government"?

Let's hope good government thinking prevails.

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