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Thursday, 9 December 1976

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

Guidelines for Pre-election Consultation with the Opposition

(i)   The pre-election period is to date from three months prior to the expiry of the House of Representatives or the date of announcement of the House of Representatives election, whichever date comes first. It does not apply in respect of Senate elections only.

(ii)   Under the special arrangement, shadow Ministers may be given approval to have discussions with appropriate officials of Government Departments. Party Leaders may have other Members of Parliament or their staff members present. A Permanent Head may have other officials present.

(iii)   The procedure will be initiated by the Leaders of non-Government parties making a request to the Prime Minister specifying the Departments involved. If he agrees, the Prime Minister will then put the arrangements in hand.

(iv)   The discussions will be at the initiative of the Leaders of non-Government parties, not officials. Officials will inform their Ministers when the discussions are taking place.

(v)   Officials will not be authorised to discuss Government policies or to give opinions on matters of a party political nature. The subject matter of the discussions would relate to the machinery of government and administration. The discussions may include the administrative and technical practicalities and procedures involved in implementation of policies proposed by the non-Government parties. If the Opposition representatives raised matters which, in the judgment of the officials, sought information on Government policies or sought expressions of opinion on alternative policies, the officials would suggest that the matter be raised with the Minister.

(vi)   The detailed substance of the discussions will be confidential but Ministers will be entitled to seek from officials general information on whether the discussions kept within the agreed purposes.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The Government has also accepted the royal commission's recommendations that there should be guidelines governing the briefing of members and party committees by public servants and the handling of requests for information by members of parliament to departments and authorities. The Government has endorsed draft guidelines for these matters and I have referred them to members of the Government parties. I am writing to the Leader of the Opposition informing him of the guidelines endorsed so that he may do likewise with members of his Party. The Government would be responsive to comments from the Opposition or from its own Parties on these matters. I seek leave to have these guidelines also incorporated in Hansard.

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