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Disclosure of Ministerial Diaries

01 December 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:

I rise to speak in relation to the bill requiring the disclosure of ministerial diaries. This bill is a basic transparency measure to allow the proactive disclosure of ministerial diaries. Similar legislation already exists in the ACT, while mechanisms in Queensland and New South Wales require ministers to make copies of their diaries publicly available. This practice of disclosure will help to illuminate lobbying influence, as it did in Queensland last year during their state election.

The function of this bill is straightforward. Every month, a minister would make publicly available all meetings, events and functions which relate to their professional responsibilities. These would be published on the internet.

The bill does not require disclosure of personal meetings and would permit the emission of information deemed by the minister to be contrary to the public interest. I want to assure the ministers in this place that I have no intention of wanting to read their personal diaries or to pry into their personal affairs or personal meetings. Rather, this relates simply to the meetings that relate to their professional responsibilities. The minister would have the power to deem disclosure of a meeting to be contrary to the public interest. This decision would then be subject to review by the Ombudsman or by the SACAT should a member of the public wish to contest that.

In 2019, research from the ANU revealed that the Australian public's trust in politicians has been on a downward trajectory since 2007. A report from Griffith University and Transparency International Australia revealed the number of Australians who view corruption as a big problem as being 66 per cent; so 66 per cent of Australians view corruption as being a big problem. That is two-thirds of the Australian population.

Encouraging greater levels of transparency is an important step in restoring trust. Raising the bar of political transparency has been a long-term project of the Greens. We have been at the forefront of campaigns and advocacy for anticorruption commissions, lobbying reform, caps on political donations and accountability federally, and at a state level. Nobody should be above scrutiny in our democracy. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We should let the sunlight in.

This measure when used in combination with a lobbyist register, which we have in place in South Australia, will help South Australians see very clearly who is lobbying members of parliament, who is seeking to exert influence over government ministers, and what interest groups do they represent. The public has a right to know who has the ear of those in power and this bill would ensure that that information is freely available to them.

This is not some sort of test dummy that I am proposing. This is an approach that has already been taken in the ACT, and in Queensland and in New South Wales they also have mandated disclosure regimes of this nature. This would really bring South Australia into line. My hope is that, no matter which party is in government from March next year, they will support this sensible reform. If we have the opportunity to sit again in the new year, and if the Liberals do not succeed in their plan to shut down our parliament as they attempted to do during the last sitting period—

The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I hear the Hon. Terry Stephens laughing. He knows it is true.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Terry Stephens is out of order!

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: We all saw what they tried to do to avoid scrutiny in this place. If they fail in that effort and if we return in the new year, then I do plan to bring this bill to a vote, because it is an important transparency measure and it is one that I think the people of South Australia will support. If I do not have the opportunity to deal with this matter before the election, should I have the honour of being returned to this place, I will certainly move on this again in the new parliament. With that, I conclude my remarks.