Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese breaks the law and his first election promise as he keeps National Cabinet secret from the public

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has broken Freedom of Information laws which are the same laws PM Albanese accused Scott Morrison of breaking as recently as December 2021. Senator Rex Patrick has taken the initial steps to have it tested in court, if need be, in the near future which will be extremely embarrassing for PM Albanese and the government.

When Anthony Albanese was opposition leader last year, he attacked the federal government for not releasing documents from the National Cabinet because the government claimed they were protected from freedom of information laws as the “National Cabinet” was a sub-committee of the Federal Cabinet which is protected from freedom of information laws.

But a judgment by Justice Richard White found that the “National Cabinet”, which was set up by Scott Morrison and is nothing more than the Prime Minister and State Premiers, did not have any relationship with the federal cabinet.

In August 2021 Senator Rex Patrick won a case in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with Justice Richard White: “finding the national cabinet was not, as the prime minister had contended, a subcommittee of the federal cabinet.”

White concluded none of the documents sought by Patrick under FOI were an “official record of a committee of cabinet” and were, therefore, not covered by the cabinet exemption.

Katy Gallagher, the shadow finance minister and chair of the Senate select committee on Covid-19, told Guardian Australia she would move for immediate disclosure of key documents outlining the pandemic response. (Click here to read more)

But Scott Morrison and his government refused to hand over the documents.

In December 2021 it was reported:

Albanese, who has also attempted to get national cabinet documents under FOI, told Guardian Australia the department’s decision to reject his request was “extraordinary”, warning that the prime minister’s department was “not above the law”.

“Mr Morrison’s obsession with secrecy has undermined the law that protects all Australians’ right to know and, if left unchecked, threatens other fundamental rights,” he said. (Click here to read more)

In March 2022 the then shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus told the Canberra Times Labor would unwind the secrecy scheme in government. 

“But Labor’s position is that it was never subject to cabinet-in-confidence rules for FOI requests, and we would adhere to this in office.” (Click here to read more)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the National Cabinet

The National Cabinet, which is the Prime Minister and State Premiers and has nothing to do with the Federal Cabinet, met on Friday the 17th of June 2022. The day before Senator Rex Patrick sent an FOI request to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (as per below) seeking “The agenda and associated papers related to the national cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on 17 June 2022”.

The following day (17/6/22), which was the day of the National Cabinet meeting, Senator Rex Patrick filed another FOI request with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the minutes of the National Cabinet meeting. (Click here to see the letter on Twitter)

On the day of the hearing (7/6/22) journalist Paul Karp asked Anthony Albanese “if he had proposed ending national cabinet secrecy and if so what had changed from his earlier criticism. He replied “no”, refusing to answer the second half of the question by stating “you got to ask one question”. (Click here to read more)

Anthony Albanese answered with a “no” and refused to answer the real question claiming it was a second question. Albanese’s refusal to answer the question is scandalous and the routine is straight out of Scott Morrison’s playbook for avoiding accountability. Every voter should be very worried given it concerns a matter of government transparency and accountability. Albanese has only been in government for 4 weeks and he’s already avoiding scrutiny by copying a dishonest Scott Morrison tactic.

Senator Rex Patrick, who finishes in the Senate at the end of June, tweeted:

and:

If the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet fail to hand over the documents requested by Senator Rex Patrick, then the next step is to file a complaint with the Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner who will make a ruling. Then any party can appeal the Privacy Commissioner’s ruling to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

This sets up Anthony Albanese for the first real test of his honesty and integrity as Prime Minister because he can’t be saying in December 2021 that “the prime minister’s department was “not above the law”” and then when he wins the election decide that the prime minister’s department is above the law. And March 2022 the then shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus said Labor would unwind the secrecy scheme which at this point is now a broken election promise.

If the matter gets to the ATT, it will do damage to the credibility of the government, several Ministers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Why this is important is because we are relying on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his government to implement a federal ICAC and there are numerous whistleblowers facing court in the near future hoping Anthony Albanese will intervene. But if Anthony Albanese is prepared to openly and blatantly break an election promise and has in effect decided that the prime minister’s department is above the law then it doesn’t look good for the federal ICAC, whistleblowers or others reliant on an honest and accountable government.

This issue will also be a test for all those in the media and on social media who claim to be anti-corruption and who have done a good job exposing the Liberal/National party corruption over the last 9 years. Will those same media and social media users now be exposed for only being anti-Liberal/National Party corruption by failing to report on this matter? Well, we are about to find out.

Prime Minister Albanese said in December 2021 that Scott Morrison had “undermined the law that protects all Australians’ right to know and, if left unchecked, threatens other fundamental rights” and now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has done exactly the same thing.

If we had a right to know in December 2021, we have a right to know now!

Senator Rex Patrick has said, as per above, he will be following this through seeking answers via the proper processes, even though he is leaving the Senate, so we haven’t heard the last of it. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese should bite the bullet and hand over the documents because he has picked a fight he can’t win at least not in the court of public opinion and highly likely in a court of law given the AAT decision in favour of Senator Rex Patrick highlighted above. 

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15 replies »

  1. Excellent reporting by KCA, will be interesting to view ABCs Insider program this morning, will Mr Spears or any of the other participants of this program raise this matter?
    Not surprised the newly elected Government is with this refusal, tarred with the same brush as the departed Government involving secrecy, do recall KCA suggesting the election of more independents could alleviate this type of secret activity by Government of the day.
    Suspect this is just the start, extremely disappointed Senator Patrick is to soon depart the Senate, one of the very few members of Federal Parliament/Senate who would deserve the salutation of ‘Honourable’

  2. He and his ilk arenot a law unto themselves. He rattled on with empty promises and immediately we saw immediate breaches, including power hikes, which in reality are ‘not his job’ to control, once he was ‘in’.The worst ever blackouts on the hirizon that he would have known about pre-election.
    They are no above the law. Secrecy is not transparency. Any Government that deems secrecy is appropriate and conceals any information from the people is not fit to rule.
    Secrecy advances self-interest.
    We, the people, pay.
    We, the people, say.
    We have every right to be informed.
    We will not be kept in the dark.

    • The word “rule”, is the problem. We elect governments to govern not rule. Something our politicians are fast losing sight of.

      • Spunty, yes yr right. I did consider that. I feel very uncomfortable using the word ‘rule’ although I sometimes consciously let it slide.
        Correct, we elect them to govern on our behalf and pay them to do so.

        I used to think, perhaps one day they will although I know they never will.

        At no point in time throughout history can it ever be said that anyone anywhere governed to the advantage of the people.

        Albanese misled the people. He knew he was misleading the people. It was intentional. He lied.

        Power prices are set to increase by 50% in the next two years. That’s the reduction he promised which is a bit like me promising to lower rates.

  3. There is a vast amount of difference already in how the National Cabinet conducts its business. Under the former government, it was only the former PM who ever said anything, as it appeared to be a vehicle for his own aggrandisement.

    The latest National Cabinet under Albanese features Premiers speaking out, announcements of funding made to media, and to a large degree, openness about what was discussed and agreed. I think it is far too early to label this a secret “star chamber” when in fact it is obviously not. It is merely following the rules established by the former government

    The Intergovernment processes were last reviewed in 2020 by DPC and featured less bureaucratic support, i.e. few agendas and minutes under the former government, and which led directly to former Senator Patrick’s opposition.

    https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/final-report-review-coag-councils-ministerial-forums.pdf

    I suggest that as part of the comprehensive overhaul of DPC and government departments, the interaction of States and federal leaders will once again be reviewed and overhauled by the Albanese Government in due course. Once again, Albanese has displayed caution and good sense in not jumping the gun about, yet another piece of the former government’s shit-fuckery that needs to be fixed, a piece that is not high on the list of priorities like fixing the energy crisis.

  4. Am not defending our new government. But in comparison with the last they are much more energetic and willing to engage in a dignified and reasonable manner. They are after all men and women with limited human capacity which the public too often forget.We have a flawed system which needs to be modernised and democratised which may just begin to happen. ‘ Hope springs infernal’ (Christina Stead)

    • Most new governments start well only to end up as incompetent and devious as the previous one. Don’t forget they have only been in one month and already promises are being broken. Unfortunately with our ridiculous voting system the party with the most votes often does not win, incompetent newbies can end up with the power.

    • Fay, Albanese lied. He knew that, as Chris Bowen stated this evening, it will take years (to address the energy crisis, high power bills etc). Bowen was very wrong to assume that as he claimed, he was sure the Australian people would ubderstand.
      They knew before they made their false promises to the Australian people as Albanese sought to hook votes by any means, that they had absolutely NO AUTHORITY to make such a claim letalone make any changes to energy (or anything else). As Bowen said when he tried to cover their backs, they will try to change legislation. Big.deal. Some of us will be dead by the time socalled ‘renewables’ take affect. They’ve been milking us and hedging their bets on ‘the move towards renewables’ for YEARS.
      As for coal, like fruit, vegies etc, we were the richest resource in the world. What did Governments do for decades? Let others mine it and profit, and sell the rest overseas – India, China etc – who do what? Sell it back to us!
      All the while, journos are gagged, citizens are gagged, Aussies are homeless. Struggling to exist and subject to extremities while these liars live off the fat of the lamb, lured if not forced, to vote for yet another balloon of false hope that is now bursting every bubble and exposing the same dirt.
      Albanese and co are laughing. We are not.

  5. Paul Karp asked Anthony Albanese “if he had proposed ending national cabinet secrecy and if so what had changed from his earlier criticism.” The answer “No” is complete as the “if so” is a question asked should the initial reply have been “yes”. Albo wants to retain National Cabinet secrecy and was so clear as to use only one unequivocal word. It’s irrelevant that the media find it dodgy due to the false perception that there was a question that went unanswered.

    • Neil Pennington
      See him in court. No-one can tell me that he is not breaching every Aussie’s Constitutional rights.And if there’s a challenge then we’ll find it.
      Deceiving the masses; pulling rank on the people with a quick, “No.” the implication of which he has no understanding of.

    • Then perhaps the second part of the question should have been “if not”? Would that have been ‘relevant’, in your view?

  6. Both recent PMs must realise that the role of PM has neither job description nor position description. The current, aging Australian Constitution is silent on these vital matters. So Morrison wrote his own to enable him to say, “(this or that) is not my job”. It is time we, the electors took a stand and write job descriptions, position descriptions and behavior codes for all MPs, Judiciary and Senior Public Servants and demand a referendum to see the Constitution is amended accordingly..

    • And definitely include a Bill of Rights. Australia is the only western “democracy” where the people have no legal rights under our constitution, which is a document designed to protect the three arms of government AGAINST the people.

  7. He has been less than a month and already his Government is showing signs of being just another weak, useless Government. On the crisis in gas Bowen refuses to pull the trigger to do something, instead he’s busy blowing out candles. On electricity his government sits their huffing and puffing as well. On Climate Change it is all the Greens fault for not backing our legislation. Meaning we are going to do little again, except blame the Greens, WELL SORRY IF MAJOR DISASTERS WREAK HAVOC IN THE YEARS AHEAD LABOR WILL BE BLAME FOR DOING VERY LITTLE ABOUT IT OTHER THAN RECOGNISING IT!!! And then we have wage rises, 5 percent is outstanding for the poor even though inflation will probably be 7 percent by end of year. On the same day however Albanese and his mates got a 5,000 dollar pay rise but that is okay….
    And on corruption Albanese does want the Liberals do and hide things. On Asylum Seekers will be challenge them in court, on Bernard Collary will be take him on as well and on Freedom of Information regarding cabinet meetings well lets do what the Libs did and be equalling secretive.
    Meanwhile Murdoch continues to rip them in his articles but nothing is done about them other than probably being scared on Murdoch media. Labor put simply is a pseudo Left with a useless Union Organisation who cares little about workers. Time they were disbanded the ACTU and another fair dinkum organisation was set up.

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