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PARLIAMENTARY POWERS--LEGAL ADVICE--ORDER FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS

Senator Alston amended his notice of motion by leave and, pursuant to

notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved--

(1) That, for the reasons set out in paragraph (2), there be laid on

the table, by the Leader of the Government in the Senate

(Senator Gareth Evans) not later than immediately after Question

Time and any motions to take note of answers to questions on 25

August 1994, either:

(a) a copy of the legal advice prepared by the Office of

General Counsel for the Treasury, and referred to by

the Attorney-General in the House of Representatives on

2 March 1994, on the powers of a House of the

Parliament or of a parliamentary committee to order

production of documents for the purposes of the House

or the committee; or

(b) a considered legal opinion by the Office of General

Counsel on the question whether, and if so to what

extent, a House of the Parliament or a committee has

power to order production of documents and enforce such

an order if it is disobeyed.

(2) The reasons referred to in paragraph (1) are:

(a) the refusal, on 29 June 1994, of the Attorney-General

(Mr Lavarch), voluntarily to make available a copy of

the advice prepared for the Treasury;

(b) the otherwise quite regular practice of the Government

in releasing important legal advice, for example, the

undertaking given by the Minister for Family Services

(Senator Crowley) to Senator Teague on 1 June 1994 in

regard to legal advice concerning the Employment,

Education and Training Legislation Amendment Bill 1994;

(c) the great significance of Attorney-General's Department

advice in setting out the approach of the Commonwealth

Government to legal principles, interpretation and

practices, particularly in relation to constitutional

matters, for example, the major advice concerning the

powers of parliamentary committees from the

Solicitor-General, Mr Gavan Griffiths QC, tabled in the

Senate on 16 August 1991 by the former

Attorney-General, Senator Evans QC;

(d) the apparent willingness of the Attorney-General to

change his mind when he appreciates that misjudgments

have been made in attributing confidentiality when as a

matter of principle it is not warranted, for example,

concerning details of the individual payments made to

counsel appearing on behalf of the Commonwealth

Government which, in spite of precedents and requests

by Senators, were withheld by the Attorney-General

until 26 May 1994;

(e) the fact that the First Report of the Select Committee

on the Print Media has published major advices from Mr

David Jackson QC and Mr Anthony Morris QC concerning

the powers of the Houses or parliamentary committees to

obtain documents and, given their import, the view of

the Government's senior legal advisers in the Office of

General Counsel should be in the public domain

alongside these other opinions to ensure that the

Parliament and the public are properly informed of the

available range of current legal opinion on this most

important of issues for the effectiveness of the

Parliament in ensuring the accountability of

government.

Question put and passed.