Feb 25, 2014

Cabinet confidential: the dangerous precedent in Abbott’s batts probe

There's good reason why cabinet documents are kept under wraps. Releasing them to a royal commission is a dangerous precedent, writes governance expert and ACIL Allen executive director Stephen Bartos.

It is one of the fundamental conventions of our Westminster system: when a government changes, all the records of its cabinet discussions are locked away and kept confidential for 30 years. It allows cabinet discussions to be honest and forthright; a government can make decisions and have them recorded with confidence that if it loses an election its opponents will not have access to the papers.

Now a chink has emerged in the conventions.

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22 thoughts on “Cabinet confidential: the dangerous precedent in Abbott’s batts probe

  1. klewso

    Labor should cut it’s losses now – eventually (sooner with Abbott:longer with Shorten) they’ll win power and be able to treat this government to the standards they’re defining now.
    Then we can get a look into Iraq, Patricks, AWB, ANP etc too.

    [It’s funny how this mob want to demonise the likes of Assange and Snowden – when they get the chance they’ll do much the same thing. For the partisan politics.]

  2. klewso

    sorry “… AWB, NPA etc…”

  3. Dez Paul

    No doubt about it, Abbott’s gone batty over this. How and when, we can’t be sure, but this will definitely turn around and bite him and the LNP one day. What a grub.

  4. Monicas Wicked Stepmother

    “…they can even call a serving PM to give evidence (as happened with the Cole inquiry into the AWB grain for oil scandal).”

    For those with poor memories, John Howard appeared at the Cole Royal Commission on the Thursday before Easter. The perfect day to make sure any possible bad news sinks without trace…

  5. rhwombat

    Abbott’s whole life has been as a faithful attack dog, biting the bums of those on whom he is set by his masters. Befehl ist Befehl. He does not lead. He does not think of consequences. His current master is Murdoch, so Australia is now run by Newscorpse.

  6. Kevin

    The Liberals seem drunk on power. Hasty, nasty decisions made to wound their enemies in the short term… As has been said, this decision could end up with the current government shooting itself in the foot.

  7. Iskandar

    The RC is obviously just a political show trial of the ALP govt. Only the blinkered won’t see the real culprits were those small business people who spring from the woodwork whenever there is a honeypot of government cash for the licking up. Those contractors who switch overnight from bricklayers to installation installers and operate under no supervision and little or no concern for their employees or a safe working environment. However this latest LNP show trial plays out I hope the commissioners are politically independent and will consider, and present, the bigger picture.

  8. Inscrutable

    Can’t wait to see the future Royal Commission into Operation Sovereign Borders and the management of relations with Indonesia!

  9. AR

    The current government’s behaviour is a good indication of how banal and reactive (we knew they were ‘reactionary’)they are – no thought for the morrow, addicted to the 3 wrod soundbite and to hell with the consequences – such as having to implement ‘bop the sotats’, ‘witch the ditch’ & ‘tax the axe’.

  10. mikeb

    Surely the Abbott Govt would not be so foolish as to open this can of worms. Can an outgoing Govt shred documentation they might find embarassing? Imagine the PS v politician tug-of-war over governance of official archives.

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