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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 680


Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) —by leave—I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

  That—

  (1)The Senate notes that:

    (a)on several recent occasions the government has failed to comply with orders and requests of the Senate and its committees for documents and information, in particular:

      (i)the order of the Senate of 16 December 1993 concerning communications between ministers on woodchip export licences,

      (ii)requests by the Select Committee on the Australian Loan Council for evidence, and

      (iii)requests by the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership Decisions in Relation to the Print Media for documents and evidence;

    (b)the government has, explicitly or implicitly, claimed executive privilege or public interest immunity in not providing the information and documents sought by the Senate and its committees;

    (c)the grounds for these claims have not been established, but merely asserted by the government;

    (d)the Senate has no remedy against these refusals to provide information and documents, except its power to impose penalties for contempt;

    (e)the Senate probably cannot impose such penalties on a minister who is a member of another House;

    (f)it would be unjust for the Senate to impose a penalty on a public servant who, in declining to provide information or documents, acts on the directions of a minister;

    (g)there is no mechanism for having claims of executive privilege or public interest immunity adjudicated and determined by an impartial tribunal; and

    (h)the Parliamentary Privileges Amendment (Enforcement of Lawful Orders) Bill 1994, introduced in the Senate by Senator Kernot on 23 March 1994, would provide for:

      (i)the enforcement by the Federal Court of the lawful orders of the Senate and its committees, particularly orders for the production of information and documents,

      (ii)avoidance of any imposition of a penalty on a public servant for acting under the directions of a minister, and

      (iii)the adjudication and determination by the Court of any claim of executive privilege or public interest immunity, through the examination of the disputed evidence or documents by the Court.

  (2)The Senate refers to the Committee of Privileges, for inquiry and report by 23 August 1994, the Parliamentary Privileges Amendment (Enforcement of Lawful Orders) Bill 1994, and requires the committee to give particular attention to the effectiveness of the bill in providing a solution to the problems set out in this resolution.

  (3)For the purposes of the committee's inquiry into the bill, a senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democrats be added to the membership of the Committee of Privileges in a non-voting capacity.

  (4)The Select Committee on Foreign Ownership Decisions in Relation to the Print Media present its first report by 9 June 1994, and the committee present a final report by 22 September 1994; and during the period from 9 June to the day on which the committee presents its final report the committee be provided with, and use, the minimum resources required for giving effect to this resolution.