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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 667


Senator McGRATH (QueenslandAssistant Minister to the Prime Minister) (15:58): I seek leave to make a short statement for 90 seconds.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for 90 seconds.

Senator McGRATH: The Senate previously passed orders for the production of documents relating to the Perth Freight Link business case and the cost-benefit analysis, which was part of the business case on five occasions. In addition, on 12 November 2015, the Senate agreed to an order seeking the modelling and forecast of freight figures, as well as peer reviews undertaken of freight figures. That motion also implicitly relates to material relevant to the business case. The government has provided responses and some documents in response to those requests, which I now again table, together with those various previous orders of the Senate. I also table an answer to a question on notice provided by the Minister for Finance on 21 December 2016. These responses explain that the documents sought in the Senate's orders were either cabinet in confidence for the WA state government or contained information that is commercial and sensitive in nature, and their release in a full unredacted form would prejudice commercial negotiations and/or would potentially damage the relations between the Commonwealth and the WA government.

These are public interest immunity grounds that have long been recognised by the Senate to justify the refusal to publicly release certain information and documents. In particular, it should be noted that the release of the documents could prejudice settling the contract for section 2 of the Perth Freight Link, which is not yet contracted. I would note that a summary of the business case was publicly released in December 2014 and further information on the project has been subsequently released by the WA government. The business case summary contains a substantial portion of key information from the business case. I also table that document again for the information of senators.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that the amended motion moved by Senator Ludlam be agreed to.