Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Cabinet Documents

The Hon. S.L. GAME (15:20): I seek leave to make a brief explanation prior to addressing a question to the Attorney-General representing the Premier on the release of cabinet documents to the Auditor-General.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: At a hearing of the Budget and Finance Committee on 7 November, the Auditor-General confirmed that on seven occasions he asked for the release of cabinet documents from this government and that all seven requests have been refused. He advised that up until that point it had been a standard and approved practice to be given access to cabinet documents on request. I understand the former Liberal government released cabinet documents on request and that the Liberal leader has given approval to the Chief Executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet for the release of cabinet documents from the former government's time in office.

It was the Auditor-General's understanding that in the majority of Australian jurisdictions it is standard practice to release cabinet documents to the Auditor-General upon request, for the purposes of fulfilling their responsibilities to parliament. Without access to key cabinet documents, the Auditor-General has expressed concern that the audit process may be significantly slower than otherwise expected.

The refusal of this government to hand over requested documents to the Auditor-General, combined with an unprecedented efficiency dividend that his office has never previously been subject to, paints a concerning picture for governmental transparency in this state. My questions to the Attorney-General representing the Premier are:

1. What is the government's justification for refusing all seven requests to release key cabinet documents to the Auditor-General?

2. Does the Premier share the Auditor-General's concerns that his auditing process will be slower than usual due to these refused requests?

3. What is your response to the Auditor-General's concerns about meeting his professional obligations as a result of budget cuts?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:22): I thank the honourable member for her question. My understanding is that governments of both stripes over history have not given access to cabinet submissions or cabinet notes from time to time.