Bill seeks to open money matters
New laws could see South Australia's independent financial watchdog get better access to cabinet documents.
SA Auditor-General Andrew Richardson’s request to see cabinet documents linked to $133 million in local sport and community infrastructure grants was recently rejected by the South Australian government.
Opposition Leader David Speirs has proposed legal changes that would prevent the government of the day from rejecting such requests. Importantly, the legal changes would be retrospective.
“It's increasingly the standard that is being set for the level of scrutiny and independent scrutiny of government decision-making and cabinet decision-making,” Mr Speirs said.
The West Australian government introduced similar legislation to its parliament earlier this year.
Currently, the SA Premier provides final sign-off on requests by the auditor-general to see current cabinet documents.
Premier Peter Malinauskas has cited cabinet confidentiality as the reason for his government’s rejection of Mr Richardson’s requests, relying on a principle “we think is worthy of preservation”.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis says the laws should not be changed.
“The Westminster system relies on a cabinet being elected being able to have its deliberations for cabinet members only,” he said.
“They [the Liberals] were in government for four years. And when they were in office for four years, just six months ago, they didn't make these legal changes.”
Mr Richardson’s most recent annual report found decisions about the two grant schemes were made outside the public sector framework, leaving no government records about any assessment processes used to determine recipients or the value of the grants.
The Labor government used grants in the state budget to pay for $84.4 million worth of upgrades promised ahead of the state election. Most of the funds went to projects in electorates Labor held or was targeting at the March election.
The opposition reform bill needs crossbench support to pass the Legislative Council, and is considered unlikely to pass the House of Assembly.