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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4962

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister in the Senate, upon notice, on 11 June 2009:

(1)   For what reason did the Governor-General declare in 2007 that   reference of the new Australian Security Intelligence Organisation headquarters to the Public Works Committee was contrary to the public interest.

(2)   Where is the Governor-General’s order declared.

(3)   Which ministers gave advice to the Governor-General about this matter.

Senator Chris Evans (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   On 4 October 2007, the Governor -General granted the ASIO Headquarters building project (‘the project’) an exemption from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (‘the Committee’) scrutiny, declaring that the work is for defence purposes and that the reference of the work to the Committee would be contrary to the public interest, as allowed for under paragraph 18(8)(c) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969. In the interest of parliamentary accountability, the then Attorney-General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, offered that the agencies involved in the project provide the Committee with a private briefing on the project’s progress. The Committee accepted this offer and the briefing was held on 4 December 2008.

(2)   The Order was declared in the Executive Council Meeting Minutes No. 23 and filed in the Records of the Council on 4 October 2007.

(3)   Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, was responsible for managing the Public Works Committee Act 1969 on behalf of the Minister for Finance and Administration. In this capacity he sought the exemption from the Governor-General, on the basis of a recommendation by the then Attorney-General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP.