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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 2429

Senator SHORT (Assistant Treasurer) —by leave—Senator Faulkner requested—and the Senate concurred—that there be laid on the table, by no later than 5 p.m. today, all correspondence between ministers and/or their departments and members of the National Commission of Audit and/or its secretariat, along with copies of the submissions to the National Commission of Audit which are listed in the commission's report. I have consulted with the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance on this matter. They regret that they are unable to table documents in relation to this order at this time.

In relation to the submissions made to the National Commission of Audit, the Minister for Finance has advised me that the commission's secretariat did not uniformly advise those who provided information to the commission that it could be made public. There was no written advice from the secretariat about the status of any of the information. Some information was, in fact, provided, I understand, to the commission on the express wish of the author that it not be made public. Because of this, the Minister for Finance has advised me that he has instructed his department to contact all of those people making submissions to the commission to ascertain whether or not they wish their submission to be made public.

In relation to the first part of the order, I can say that there is extensive documentation involved. Some of that documentation is covered by the exclusions for tabling, which have a long period of precedence in this place, that is, the documentation is being examined in relation to its status as, for example, cabinet-in-confidence and/or commercial-in-confidence.

In this context, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance have advised me that they are not prepared to table documentation on a piecemeal basis. But, as I have indicated to the Senate in complying with previous returns to order, in matters such as this the government wants to cooperate to the maximum extent possible consistent with its executive obligations. Despite the quantum of documentation involved and the timing difficulty in seeking and receiving responses from all those parties who provided information, I assure the Senate that we shall table the documents requested by the Senate immediately these issues have been resolved.