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Democrats move to censure Environment Minister - first democrat censure in 5 years.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

Senator Lyn Allison

Australian Democrats

Spokesperson On nuclear issues

 

March 23, 1999 99/155

 

Democrats move to censure Environment Minister

 

First Democrat censure in 5 years

 

The Australian Democrats today moved to censure the Ministe r for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, following his refusal to comply with a Senate order for the production of documents relating to the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine.

 

Democrats’ Spokesperson on nuclear issues, Senator Lyn Allison, said the Minister has flouted an order of the Senate by withholding many documents.

 

“This strikes at the very heart of scrutiny of the executive by the Parliament. The Senate has ordered the Minister to produce all documents relating to Jabiluka over a 16 week period and he’s refused to obey that order. Senator Hill’s actions are in defiance of the parliamentary process,” Senator Allison said.

 

In February the Senate, with the crucial deciding vote of independent Senator Brian Harradine, voted for the Jabiluka documents to be released. A ‘sanitised’ set of just 44 documents was released on March 8, the Minister’s tabling statement offering various reasons for withholding 13 other documents — but later correspondence claimed different reasons for withholding. Among his reasons for refusal was that certain documents may damage the ‘international relations’ of the Commonwealth.

 

Senator Allison said the decision to move to censure the Minister, the first taken by the Democrats in 5 years was not taken lightly. The key priority of the Democrats is for accountable government.

 

“It is vital that we rigorously maintain the democratic standards of the Parliament. The Minister is simply not cooperating with the majority of the Senate. Senator Hill has placed himself above the will of the Senate and he’s expecting to get away with it,” she said.

 

“The Minister has also refused to take up the Democrats’ offer to have an independent third party check the documents and make an assessment as to whether he has responded in good faith to the order of the Parliament,” Senator Allison added.

 

“I can only conclude that the Minister is deliberately withholding documents that would embarrass the Government. We believe such documents, like those leaked from Environment Australia in February, would reveal a litany of underhand tactics committed in the name of the Australian Government,” Senator Allison said.

 

PLEASE NOTE: CENSURE MOTION ATTACHED

 

 

Contacts: Justin O’Brien on 0411 473 697, Senator Lyn Allison 015 691 512

 

 

Senator Allison

 

I give not ice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that the Senate

 

A. Notes

 

The Minister for the Environment only partially complied with an order for production of documents

 

1. He has not supplied many documents on this matter covered by the scope of the return to order.

2. His grounds of refusal for supplying those documents to the senate changed in 48 hours and he has not taken the opportunity to correct the record

3. He has drawn aribtrary lines around the documents he has chosen to withhold

4. He refused to respond to a reasonable request to have a third party check the documents and make an assessment about whether he had responded in good faith to the order of the parliament

5. He has given unsatisfactory answers about this matter to the parliament and continually tried to qualify the terms of the return to order by talking about ‘key documents’ or ‘documents the department sent me’.

 

And B moves that the Senate censures the Minister for the Environment, Minister Hill for not complying fully with a re turn to order due on 8 th March 1999