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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2723


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (13:21): The government is happy to support this amendment. We think it is not strictly necessary. What it does is establish in addition to the six core divisions of the tribunal an additional division dealing with Freedom of Information Act matters. Senator Collins refers to the government's proposal to abolish the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Although this is perhaps not the place to have that debate, can I respond to the observation you have made, Senator Collins, by pointing out the anomaly in the existing law that, unlike almost every other area of merits review, there was a double level of merits review in relation to FOI matters. If the government's other legislation would be passed, there would be a single level of merits review, and that merits review would be conducted by the AAT. You propose that there be an FOI division. We would have thought that that could be perfectly well accommodated within the general division of the AAT. Nevertheless, rather than have a fight about it, if you are of the view that there should be an FOI division, as well as the other six divisions, of the AAT, we are happy to support your proposal.