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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1414

Senator SIEWERT (10:02 AM) —I would like to make some comments on the amendment. We strongly support the issue of the public release of advice from the agency. We think it is very important. We also recognise that there is a process here while the agency develops its advice and recommendations and we do understand that it takes some time for government to then consider it and perhaps develop its strategy about how to implement it. I understand that process.

The Greens are trying to ensure that there is disclosure of the advice because this is an extremely important issue. I touched on this in my second reading speech yesterday; we believe that if the agency is carrying out its job properly it should report without fear or favour of that information becoming public. It is important information and if it is very good advice it will stand up to public scrutiny. We believe that is important.

We also believe it is important that the government should be held accountable and have to explain why it does not accept particular pieces of advice or recommendations from the agency, if that should occur. The government should also be held accountable for why it did not accept a particular piece of advice or if it went in a different direction but supported some of it. That is why I planned to move a similar amendment, although mine was for 12 months. If Senator Xenophon’s amendment is passed I will, of course, withdraw my amendment. That is why we thought a 12-month period was an acceptable length of time between the advice being given and it being made publicly available. We support Senator Xenophon’s amendment.