QUESTION: Freedom of information

During Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer, as Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, about providing access to cabinet documents in light of the Government's election promise and commitment to greater transparency and openness in government.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: On pages 1 and 2 of this morning's Advertiser an article by Adam Langenberg refers to the Auditor-General being denied access to cabinet documents relating to the Adelaide Oval hotel development. The article describes how he was denied access to those documents, and goes on to quote Premier Steven Marshall saying he was 'committed to much greater transparency than the former Labor government who were addicted to secrecy and cover-ups'.

The Premier is quoted as saying that he would release the documents if requested, although the Auditor-General would not be provided with legal advice about whether the hotel meets the Adelaide Oval and Park Lands laws, even if the Auditor-General requested those documents. The article explains that:

"Former premier Jay Weatherill changed rules around access to cabinet documents so that Mr Richardson and other inquiry agencies, including the Independent Commission Against Corruption, no longer had automatic access to them."

My questions to the Treasurer are:

1. Given the Marshall Government's election promise and commitment to greater transparency and openness, will the government be changing the rules around access to cabinet documents to reverse the former premier's rule change and allow automatic access to cabinet documents by inquiry agencies?

2. While they are at it, will the government consider providing increased access to cabinet documents through legislative changes to the Freedom of Information Act that the Attorney-General is apparently still working on?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): In relation to the second question, that is ultimately an issue up the Attorney-General. In relation to the first question, I think the Premier has, in the morning media, made it quite clear what his and the government's position is: that is, if the Auditor-General requests cabinet documents, unlike the former Labor premier he will provide access. I will take advice on this, but I would imagine, if there are current rules which actually prevent that, for him to enact it he would need to change those rules.

So I think the answer to the question is—but let me take advice and bring back an answer—if there are existing rules, rather than just a decision that the former premier and the former Labor cabinet took without any rules, that would prevent what the Premier has indicated that he intends to do, I am sure a natural corollary of what he has said would mean that he would need to change those particular rules. But I am happy to take the first part of the question on notice and bring back a reply.

Response received on March 21, 2019

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): The Premier and the Attorney-General have provided the following advice:

Changes were recently made to the way that investigative agencies access cabinet documents. As part of these changes the Auditor-General, subject to the approval of the Premier, will be permitted access to cabinet submissions and attachments to cabinet submissions.

The Government recently released Premier and Cabinet Circular PC047—Disclosure of documents to investigative agencies which more comprehensively outlines these changes.

In relation to the question as to whether the Government will consider providing increased access to cabinet documents through legislative changes to the Freedom of Information Act, the Attorney-General has advised that the Attorney-General's Department is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Freedom of Information Act 1991, including the provisions relating to access to cabinet documents.

Read Premier and Cabinet Circular PC047 - Disclosure of documents to investigate agencies.