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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 7565

Senators Ludlam, Xenophon and Fielding to move on the next day of sitting:

(1)   That the following matter be referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by the first day of sitting in 2010:

A process for determining public interest immunity claims made by the government in response to orders of the Senate or of Senate committees for the production of information and documents.

(2)   That the committee consider whether the following proposed order of the Senate would provide a suitable process:

   Independent arbitration of public interest immunity claims

   Proposed resolution of the Senate

(1)   If:

(a)   the Senate orders that a minister produce documents; and

(b)   the minister responsible for producing the documents considers that there may be reasons why the documents should not be produced,

   a minister shall make a statement to the Senate, on or before the date specified by the Senate for the production of the documents, setting out why it may not be in the public interest for the documents to be produced.

(2)   If:

(a)   a minister makes a statement under paragraph (1); or

(b)   a committee makes a report to the Senate under paragraph (5) of the order of the Senate of 13 May 2009,

   and the Senate does not, within two sitting days after the statement or the report is made, by resolution accept the reasons given by the minister in the statement or as set out in the report of the committee, the statement or the report shall be referred to the independent arbitrator in accordance with this order.

(3)   Where the reasons set out in the statement or the report consist of, or include, a claim that documents or information are commercially confidential, the independent arbitrator in respect of that claim is the Auditor-General.

(4)   Where other reasons are given the statement or report shall be referred to an independent arbitrator appointed by resolution of the Senate.

(5)   The independent arbitrator shall, as soon as practicable, report to the Senate on whether the reasons given for withholding the documents or information are justified.

(6)   Where the independent arbitrator reports that reasons given for the withholding of information or documents are not justified, the documents or information shall be produced in accordance with the order of the Senate or the requirement of the committee, subject to any further order of the Senate.