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Tuesday, 28 November 2006
Page: 18

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (1:49 PM) —I will address the two points. Firstly, in relation to consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, the government has always taken the view that the Leader of the Opposition should be briefed on issues of national security, and that position will continue under this bill. On a further point, in relation to reports of the inspector, the bill already provides that the minister may provide the final report to any person, including the Leader of the Opposition. This judgement will be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the public interest. Once again, I make the point that this government has always taken the view that the Leader of the Opposition should be briefed on issues of national security. We know that is done on a confidential basis and that, with only one famous exception, that has always been abided by.

I should also add that, in relation to the issue of the initiation of investigations by the inspector, the answer to the question was in my first intervention in this debate. The minister will be responsible for his decisions. Under the Westminster system—which we are proud and lucky to live under in this country—he is responsible to the parliament for his decisions. He or she will front up here at question time and be accountable to the parliament. If there is a matter that any member or senator thinks should be investigated and is not being investigated, the minister is responsible. You cannot be more accountable than that.

If Senator O’Brien decides next March that the minister is not initiating an investigation into a security matter, then Senator O’Brien can ask me as the minister representing or he can get one of his comrades in the lower house to ask the minister himself. That is how this system works. It is ultimately accountable; it is not for the political benefit of the government. It is a system that is very accountable and it makes the minister responsible for the decision to task the inspector with an action under this legislation.