The Australian Greens are calling on Attorney General Nicola Roxon to guarantee she will not use new laws to block Freedom of Information (FOI) applications currently underway to release details of MP expenses. This follows a finding by the Australian Information Commissioner that parliament is subject to FOI laws.
“The Attorney General should put her foot on the brakes rather than moving full steam ahead into new laws to shield parliament and MPs from scrutiny”, said Greens Senator and democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon.
“At least one major news outlet has lodged FOI applications to release the expenses of all Senate and House of Representative MPs. These applications should be allowed to run their course before the Attorney General rushes headlong to shut down FOI applying to parliament.
“Public confidence in the integrity of our MPs is already under a cloud and moves to take the spotlight off parliament and MPs will push confidence even lower. The Attorney General should allow time for a full public debate on this issue.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in public money is being spent on parliament departments and FOI can shine a light on how that money is being spent.
“There is no public interest reason to shield the Departments of the House of Representatives, the Senate and Parliamentary Services from FOI. Opening up the workings of parliament will lead to more transparent and accountable government.
“The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended in 1995 that parliament departments be subject to FOI and the Attorney General should welcome not reject this scrutiny”, said Senator Rhiannon.