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ADMINISTRATION—AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION COMMISSIONER—PROVISION OF INFORMATION

Senator Cormann, pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 116—That the Senate—

 (a) notes:

  (i) the response by the Information Commissioner to three orders of the Senate seeking information about the Government's proposed mining tax, dated 26 October 2010, which was tabled in the Senate on 15 November 2010, and

  (ii) that the Information Commissioner is of the view that it is not open to him to provide a report to the Senate as ordered because the statute which established his office does not encompass the function envisaged by the Senate in its orders, or by the Government in the agreements on parliamentary reform;

 (b) advises the Information Commissioner as follows:

  (i) that under section 49 of the Constitution the Senate has the undisputed power to order the production of documents necessary for its information, a power which encompasses documents already in existence and documents required to be created for the purpose of complying with the order,

  (ii) this power may be modified only by express statutory declaration, as required by section 49 of the Constitution,

  (iii) nothing in the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 is expressed as a declaration for the purpose of section 49 that would have the effect of limiting the exercise of the power by the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament in respect of the Information Commissioner,

  (iv) multiple resolutions of the Senate affirm the principle that information may be withheld from it only following consideration by the Senate of a properly founded claim of public interest immunity, and

  (v) the Senate has on numerous occasions exercised its power to require statutory agencies and officers to produce information in response to orders; and

 (c) orders the Information Commissioner to reconsider his position as soon as possible and provide the information required by the Senate.

Statements by leave: The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) and Senators Ludlam and Cormann, by leave, made statements relating to the motion.

Question put and passed.