The Morrison government presented a bill to parliament earlier this month that would amend Freedom of Information Act. It would allow National Cabinet meetings to be exempt from the release of information to the public in the same way as the federal cabinet. This protection would be significant. The bill would extend the definition of cabinet, as it applies to the National Cabinet and one of its committees. It would also redefine the term minister, to include state ministers.
This exemption would not only apply to National Cabinet meetings, but also to a variety of bodies that are associate with them under the complex architecture for intergovernmental relations in Australia. This chart illustrates how complicated it is. The bill was refer to the Senate committee. It is expect to report on October 14. It is very important. This bill should not be pass in its current form.
What Is All This About?
This bill responds to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s (AAT) decision in a case brought forward by Senator Rex Patrick, which sought to force the government release certain National Cabinet records. The AAT rejected the government’s claim that National Cabinet documents could not released under the Freedom of Information Act. The tribunal ruled that a forum where heads of Australian governments meet was a different type of body than a cabinet.
Cabinets made up of ministers from the same government who are elect to the exact same parliament. They are collectively accountable. A meeting of National Cabinet, on the other hand, is made up of leaders from nine different jurisdictions with their own cabinets, parliaments, and lines of accountability. The government did not appeal the AAT decision and instead moved to amend FOI Act.
Since before the federation, there have been meetings between heads of Australian government since. These meetings were known as the premiers conference for around 100 years. The name of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was changed in 1992. COAG has been dissolved today National Cabinet has taken its place. However, it is essentially the same entity with a new name, and modified procedures to deal with the pandemic.
What The Current Bill Would Accomplish National
These bodies were not established by legislation. COAG was mentioned in passing in many legislations that dealt with the federal, state, and territory governments over its nearly 30-year existence. This is the reason for the title of the current bill, the COAG Legislation Amendment Bill.
The bill’s first two sections schedule one and two modify a number of acts that refer to COAG. However, none of the amendments uses National Cabinet as a replacement. For example, the COAG Reform Fund will become the Federation Reform Fund, and all references to COAG would be replace by First Ministers council. This background makes the amendments to schedule 3 of the FOI Act, and many other acts, even more bizarre.
The National Cabinet here refer to as by its name. The amendments define the federal Cabinet to include the committee known as the National Cabinet. The question is: Who knows this information? The answer is in the terminology use to describe the prime minister. What other bodies could this bill eventually cover?
What Should The National Cabinet’s Confidential Nature Be?
The bill raises important questions about the extent to which National Cabinet decisions should made available to parliaments and the media. Transparency and accessibility are essential. The National Cabinet has made many important decisions over the course of the pandemic about how public power will operate, by whom, and when. For almost two years, its decisions have had a dramatic impact on the lives of every Australian.
The effectiveness of the National Cabinet depends in many ways on trust and public cooperation. However, the only information that is publicly available about its decisions comes from bland press releases, speeches at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conferences and occasional leaks to journalists.
All principles and practices of representative democracy at all levels, including the Commonwealth and each state and territory, are being hamper by a lack of information about the activities of the National Cabinet.
It may be possible to keep some parts of the National Cabinet secret. Negotiations can be difficult and the decisions are not always easy. Sometimes, outcomes can be unpredictable and public opinion may be volatile. It is also in the public’s interest to encourage open dialogue between political leaders as well as innovative thinking about solutions.
These factors suggest that there could be a case to keep some aspects of National Cabinet and preliminary work documents secret. However, there no comparable reason to withhold information about decisions made, finalise documents upon which they base, and understandings of the actions expect to taken. The bill would exempt these matters. These matters should be available to the public.
The Confusion Is Only Compound National
The bill, which enshrined the words National Cabinet into legislation. Also perpetuates the inappropriate and foolish name that was adopt in the midst of the pandemic. This way of describing the forum of heads of government is a risk to at least two of our most fundamental principles of government.
One is federalism. It is absurd to refer to the meeting of heads from the Australian. Government as a subcommittee within the cabinet of one its members the federal. This could lead to strained relations between the federal, state, and territorial governments in the future. The second danger is the notion of a cabinet, and by extension responsible government poker pelangi.
It is difficult enough to grasp the concept of a cabinet. Almost entirely dependent on the convention of the Constitution, bolstered by the logic of how government and parliament interact. It is clear that cabinet terminology is commonly use. However, confusion can be magnified if you apply the term cabinet. To a body that is entirely different from your own.