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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1754


Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that his Government's promise of open government is being questioned as a result of the refusal of Ministers to give details about the composition of existing interdepartmental committees? Why should Ministers not inform the Parliament of which interdepartmental committees their officers are members? Why is it wrong to identify the existence of a committee or its membership, even if there is international or commercial involvement, when its findings are not made public? In view of the Government's election promise, will he explain the reason for secrecy?

Senator MURPHY - I can imagine that there may be circumstances in which the standing of the name of a committee or the subject matter into which the committee is inquiring might easily cause problems, as the honourable senator has indicated in his question. Suppose, for example, that some particular security problem arose. To have it announced that a committee was looking into that very subject matter might in some way be prejudicial to the inquiry. On the other hand, it would seem obvious that probably many committees are looking into matters in relation to which there could be no possible reason why the existence of such committees or the subject matter being inquired into by them, or for that matter the membership of the committees, ought not be made known. I do not think it is a matter of simply saying all or nothing. I am sure that if we can find some way of making information available, consistent with the declared policy of the Government to have as much openness in administration as possible and compatible with the requirements of the nation's security, such matters ought not to be kept confidential. If committees have been set up in the areas for which I am responsible and if the honourable senator wants to know about them, I would be happy to supply the information. I should imagine that information on a great number of committees could be treated in this way. Some of the committees are formalised and I suppose some of them might be informal, as the honourable senator would be aware from his own experience. Insofar as assistance can be given by me on the matter, I will be only too happy to give it.

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