14 May 2024

Today, the Coalition with the full support of the crossbench have forced the hand of the Labor Government to provide a copy of the secret manual distributed by the Prime Minister’s Office to departments instructing them how to avoid answering questions from the Senate.

Scrutiny of the government through Senate estimates is a foundation of our parliament and democracy and is recognised as a major institution of accountability.

Minutes before the Opposition and crossbench could move a motion the Labor Government tabled the secret manual and proceeded to provide pathetic justification, seemingly spending more time analysing questions than actually answering them.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Simon Birmingham said the severe form of contempt for the Senate that had been demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s Office requires urgent scrutiny, explanation and correction from the Prime Minister.

“It is disturbing to think that the Prime Minister may have approved this document before its distribution knowing full well it would distort the procedures of a democratic parliament,” Senator Birmingham said.

“The revelation of this secret manual brings into question Labor’s ability and willingness to perform the minimum requirements of government.

“What Labor had promised was greater transparency, however what it has delivered is secrecy of the highest order.”

Labor must retract this document from departments and provide full transparency and answers to the Opposition and crossbench or risk setting a dangerous precedent.

The Opposition and crossbench will now review this secret document and expect to pursue further explanation and details from the government.

Any attempt to avoid addressing this matter would only be admission from the Prime Minister and his Government that such practice of demonstrable contempt for the parliament is acceptable.

I thank the Greens and entire Senate crossbench for their cooperation to holding this secretive Labor Government to account.