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February 1, 2023

Government secrecy around health advice defended by local Nats MP

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The NSW Liberal-Nationals government’s attempt to block transparency around its health advice with the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney last June will now become public, thanks to a motion headed by Labor, and supported by the Greens and the cross bench.

NSW Labor in the upper house (Legislative Council) were successful on October 13 with their motion.

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Normal procedure for bills which are passed in one parliamentary house is that they are debated and voted on in the other house to become law, yet the office of Greens MLC, David Shoebridge, told The Echo the successful upper house (Legislative Council) motion does not require a vote from the lower house of parliament (the Legislative Assembly).

NSW upper house Labor MLC, John Graham.

The motion by NSW upper house Labor MLC, John Graham, notes that the NSW government only supplied part of the documents requested by the Public Accountability Committee around health advice provided by the NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant and the Ministry of Health, ‘advising on potential or additional restrictions and lockdowns and the timing of potential or additional restrictions, and lockdowns for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour’.

Dr Kerry Chant

Dr Chant and Health Minister, Brad Hazzard refused to supply the material, according to the motion, because, ‘such advice was prepared for Crisis Cabinet, a subcommittee of Cabinet’.

Additionally, the motion says the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) also rejected transparency ‘on the basis that they were related to the “Crisis Policy Committee of Cabinet” and therefore protected by Cabinet confidentiality’.

The motion also ‘re-asserts the importance of parliamentary scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, where residents are subject to increased restrictions by government that impact their lives and livelihoods’.

Legal advice from Michael Sexton SC, was also tabled, which said that ‘it is more likely than not that a court would uphold the power of a committee of the NSW Parliament to call for [such] evidence’.

Labor’s John Graham told parliament, ‘We want everyone in this fight and we believe this is a better way to do it: transparency and trust’.

‘The Government says it is Cabinet in confidence. It says it will not release it – not even behind closed doors, not even under privilege, not even in the way that is customary. We say we support the health advice, but we would like to see it’.

Ben Franklin being sworn back into the senate as parliamentary secretary for energy and the arts after a failed bid in the lower house in 2019. Photo supplied.

Local MPs voted against motion

Local MLC, Ben Franklin, and Liberal MLC, Catherine Cusack, both voted against the motion.

Mr Franklin told parliament that the Crisis Policy Committee of Cabinet was a subcommittee of Cabinet.

‘It had no statutory or regulatory basis for existence. It was created by a Premier, and it could be abolished or amended by any Premier, as we have recently seen. Its roles and functions are referred to in the State Emergency Management Plans, but it was a subcommittee of Cabinet.

Mr Franklin said ‘The status of the Crisis Policy Committee as a committee of Cabinet was recognised by the Supreme Court as recently as last month.

‘The recent Supreme Court case of Henry & Ors v Hazzard (No 2) [2021] NSWSC 1235 considered whether a submission to the Crisis Policy Committee and a decision of that committee was subject to public interest immunity’.

Mr Shoebridge’s office said they expect the materials to be available by early November.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. The very fact that the term “Secrecy” is applied to public health advice is indefensible in a democratic society.

    Health advice must be public, to assist better public health outcomes, transparency and trust in authority and regulation.

    It should never be secret, period!

    Think about the fact that the Govt is going to great lengths to to keep their public health matters secret, yet they want your personal health matters to be public?

    All while Govt staff haven’t lost jobs, and they haven’t suffered financially or are not subject to jab mandates. Mmmm.

    Points towards an infestation of the dreaded vested interests virus. Transparency is the cure for that one, time to shine some light in dark places.

  2. Praise the goddess for David Shoebridge ( a very young image of him above) consistently attempting to get the LNP to be accountable & transparent. OMG what patience you have David & I applaud your persistence and incredible ethics. I’d have to throw a few lemon meringue pies in their face at least. BOTH STATE & FED Libs & Nats have done everything possible to cover up their parties corruption & vested interest deals. How comforting to know (how could you NOT know) that the LNP is simply there for their own greedy purposes WTF ? About a quarter of the Nats have personal investments with fossil fuel companies & that’s not even getting into the details of party donations from fossil fuel companies. The Feds continue to protect Porter & our 5 minute Premier has a longgggg history of stuff ups & financial losses / incompetence dealing with OUR money re Super funds. There are allegations that our new premier, prior to his current position was investing millions of dollars off shore (Caman Islands apparently) ? No wonder citizens across the world have no faith in our Govt representatives or for that matter our dying democracy .” Blinky Bill ” for PM I say , while we still have some of his family left 🙁 🙁 🙁

  3. Typical coalition- try to hide from accountability. Franklin will soon be running around throwing money around to try and get elected as local mp like last election. Good thing about Cussack she is retiring.
    Strange thing about this article is proposed by labor but greens member in most prominent position- now why would that be?

  4. The health system is catastrophic even without the Covid problem. Just try and see a specialist in regional NSW. Why do people vote Lieberal and National party, they have completely failed. What do the LNP actually do apart from work on coloured spread sheets in marginal electorates. How about cancelling these nuclear subs and putting it back in public health where the money came from? Morrison and Hunt have to go they have failed! How many billion have these greed obsessed private for profit health corporations made under th LNP while our health system floundered?

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