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Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Page: 3405

Senator ALSTON(12.02) —by leave-I move:

(7) Page 10, subclause 29 (3), line 12, leave out the subclause, insert the following subclause:

``(3) Notice of a direction under subsection (1) shall be published in the Gazette within 21 days after the direction is given.''.

(8) Page 10, after subclause 29 (3), add the following new subclause:

``(4) The Minister shall cause a copy of a direction under subsection (1) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 10 sitting days of that House after the direction is given.''.

Clause 29 currently provides that a direction given by the Minister to Austel shall be published in the Gazette. A direction to Austel is a very significant document, one that we believe should be given maximum public exposure. For it simply to be published in the Gazette would mean that it would become the province of those who spend their lives reading Government gazettes, but of very few others. It may be the Government's intention to ensure that the matter did not come to the attention of the media and others until some time later. We regard that as undesirable. Notice of a direction should be published in the Gazette within 21 days after the direction is given and the direction itself should be tabled in the Parliament. In that way, the Parliament will have an opportunity to debate the merits of the direction. Presumably it will then be able to ascertain from the Minister what created the need for that direction.

As the clause is presently worded, it can only give rise to the suspicion that the Government and its advisers are anxious to avoid the glare of the parliamentary process by having something get only a one line mention. I should retract that, because subclause (3) requires the direction itself to be published. I presume we can take that at face value and that there would not simply be mention of the direction, but publication of its contents. It seems undesirable that it should be confined to the archives in that way.

We urge the Government to reconsider the matter. Presumably it is interested in public debate. I would have thought the Australian Democrats would also have been interested in public debate. Unless the Democrats are prepared to give the Minister carte blanche, they would also be interested in having this matter put squarely into the parliamentary and public arena and not tucked away.