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Department of workplace relations: the cloak of secrecy.

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Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Shadow Minister for Social Inclusion Julia Gillard MP


With Senate Estimates hearings starting today, May 21, the Department of Workplace Relations - which is responsible for Work Choices - has emerged as the most secretive government portfolio in Australia, data released by Federal Labor reveals.

Senate Estimates are held three times a year. They are central to the democratic process and keeping the Howard Government and its Ministers accountable.

Senate Estimates allow the Opposition to seek important information from the Government and they are bound to answer. However, the Government has refused to release answers from the two previous rounds.

Since November, the key government agencies responsible for Work Choices have refused to provide any information.

The Office of the Employment Advocate - now known as Workplace Authority - took 142 separate questions on notice and did not provide a single answer.

The Office of Workplace Services - now known as the Workplace Ombudsman - was asked 149 on notice - and none were answered.

This is an absolute cover-up.

It is akin to turning the Department of Workplace Relations into the Secret Service.

After 11 years in power, there is a culture of arrogance within the Federal Government.

And for the latest round, the Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio responded to only two per cent of questions on time.

Last week, the Federal Government instructed staff not to talk about Work Choices; now they are refusing to answer questions posed in the Federal Parliament.

Data: Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations and Education

DEWR Questions on Notice — November Supplementary Estimates

Number %

Total Number 813

Answered 419 51.5%

Outstanding 394 48.5%

Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) - 3 outstanding (65 questions in total) Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) - 1 outstanding (1 question in total) Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) - 99 outstanding (99 questions in total) Outcome 1 & 3 - 5 outstanding (255 questions in total) Outcome 2 - 181 outstanding (207 questions in total) Office of Workplace Services (OWS) - 104 outstanding (104 questions in total)

DEWR Questions on Notice — February Additional Estimates

Number %

Total Number 338

Answers Received 43 12.7%

Answers Received on time 7 2%

Outstanding 295 87.3%

Australian Building and Construction Commission - 19 outstanding (19 questions in total) AFPC - 11 outstanding (11 questions in total) AIRC - 15 outstanding (15 questions in total) Cross portfolio - 41 outstanding (41 questions in total) OEA - 43 outstanding (43 questions in total) Outcome 2 - 70 outstanding (70 questions in total) Outcome 1&3 - 43 outstanding (84 questions in total) OWS - 45 outstanding (45 questions in total)

[21 May 2007]