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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11621

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (17:38): I rise to present an oral statement to the House regarding a possible matter of privilege, namely the unauthorised disclosure of committee material. On Monday, 17 September the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs tabled its report Our land: our languages. The committee had agreed that embargoed copies of the report could be released to selected media outlets on the Friday preceding. Prior to the tabling of the report on the Monday, the Australian released on its website and in print a newspaper article revealing findings of the report that was still under embargo.

The committee discussed the matter and determined in this instance it does not constitute substantial interference in the operation of the committee and it has not diminished the capacity of the committee to undertake its business. While technically an unauthorised disclosure, it was the disclosure of material not authorised for publication at that time. The matter was noted by other media outlets, who raised the issue and were concerned that they had quite rightly waited until tabling to publish news of the report.

The committee has drawn this matter to the attention of the House to affirm the seriousness of any media publishing report findings in advance of tabling and to affirm the importance of the good relationship that parliamentary committees generally enjoy with the media and the necessity of ensuring that this relationship continues. The committee is of the view that this was a regrettable but isolated incident and does not consider that there were substantial consequences from the early disclosure of the report findings. In this instance, the committee does not consider additional action is warranted.