Following the leak of the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told journalists this morning that "this has not been through cabinet at this point. It hasn’t been considered by cabinet, so we will take it through that orderly process, and we will come out with our response to the Ruddock review." However, last month Sen. Mathias Cormann refused to comply with an order from the Senate to produce the review, citing ongoing confidential cabinet deliberations.
"Either Scott Morrison is lying to the Australian people, or Mathias Cormann is lying to the Australian Senate. Either way, it's absolutely unacceptable and they need to come clean," said the Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale.
"Twice the Senate has ordered the Government to produce these documents and twice Sen. Cormann refused on the basis of Cabinet confidentiality. Was Cormann lying to the Senate when he said the review was being considered by Cabinet or was the Prime Minister lying when he claimed it never had been? They can't have it both ways."
"This is just one more example of a Liberal Party at war with itself, willing to do or say whatever it takes to hide its complete dysfunction from the public," he said.
"LGBTIQ+ communities have been left in the lurch for months awaiting the release of this report. Our human rights and lives are at stake and we’re being kept in the dark. The government must release this report in full immediately," said Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice.
"The Liberal candidate in the upcoming Wentworth by-election, Dave Sharma, said he personally doesn't support any new discrimination. The government must come clean with its plans to enshrine new discrimination before the by-election."
NOTE: Sen. Cormann's letter is attached here.
According to the Senate’s published grounds for claims of public interest immunity, only revealing the deliberations (ie minutes of who said what and why they came to their decision) is treated as beyond the power of the Senate:
(5) Disclosure of Executive Council or cabinet deliberations
It is accepted that deliberations of the Executive Council and of the cabinet should be able to be conducted in secrecy so as to preserve the freedom of deliberation of those bodies. This ground, however, relates only to disclosure of deliberations. There has been a tendency for governments to claim that anything with a connection to cabinet is confidential. According to a famous story about a state government, trolley loads of documents were wheeled through the cabinet room so that it could be claimed that they were all "cabinet-in-confidence", a story which serves to illustrate the abuse of this ground. A claim that a document is a cabinet document should not be accepted; it has to be established that disclosure of the document would reveal cabinet deliberations. The claim cannot be made simply because a document has the word "cabinet" in or on it.
Neither legislatures nor courts have conceded that internal deliberations of government departments and agencies are entitled to the same protection.