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Senator Andrew Murray

Australian Democrats’ Accountability Spokesperson

20 June 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/364

END TO SECRET DEALS Ministers must now justify Government contract confidentiality clauses The Australian Democrats today in the Senate were victorious in their campaign to end government contract secrecy.

Federal Government Ministers are now required to indicate what clauses in contracts are confidential and to then justify the need for confidentiality. They must also provide the Senate with a list of contracts entered into by their departments that exceed $100,000.

The landmark change is a result of Senate support for a motion by Australian Democrats’ Accountability spokesperson, Senator Andrew Murray.

Senator Murray said the success of the motion would significantly increase greater transparency and accountability in government contracts.

“I wish to thank Shadow Minister for Finance, Mr Lindsay Tanner and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator John Faulkner for their support of the Australian Democrats’ motion,” he said.

Senator Murray said the contract list would have to specify the contractor; matters covered by the contract; and whether the contract contained confidentiality provisions or was considered confidential by the parties. A sample of the contracts identified as confidential would then be investigated by the Auditor-General who would then report to the Senate whether the claims of confidentiality were appropriate. The Auditor-General would have a crucial oversight role in this process.

“A significant effect of this motion is that it will curtail the abuse of commercial-in-confidence claims by some Ministers and bureaucrats. Departments and government agencies will finally be accountable for the manner in which they use secrecy provisions,” he said.

“This motion is an important step towards the Senate reclaiming its vital accountability function. For too long, aggressive claims of Executive Privilege have met with little or no resistance.

“Secrecy is not acceptable when there is a strong public will for open, accountable and transparent government. After a long period of deliberation and much debate, the Senate ultimately had to comply with that will."

To interview Senator Murray please contact Ainslee McCallum on (02) 6277 5747 (WST).