Now that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be the Prime Minister for the foreseeable future, it’s that time of the election cycle where departments begin briefing ministers on what they need to know for the next term of Parliament. The ministry will likely get theirs once they’re sworn in (Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove is in France until the end of the week), but Turnbull this morning invited cameras into his office, where he and the head of his department, Martin Parkinson, were viewing the incoming government briefs on iPad Pros.
Journalists and opposition parties usually try to get those briefs under freedom of information law, but it has become a lot tougher than in previous years. Public servants are generally opposed to releasing the briefs because it would restrict them offering full and frank advice to their ministers on the issues of the day. There has been a mix of decisions over what can and can’t be released, but a ruling late last year found that the purely factual information in incoming government briefs can be released under FOI, but deliberative content — such as discussion about the viability of government policy and other potential issues coming up — can be excluded. So don’t expect a full and forthright accounting of what the government intends to get up to.