Australia Former prime minister Scott Morrison's lawyer pushes for full response to the Robodebt royal commission to be made public

11:42  06 december  2022
11:42  06 december  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave evidence at the royal commission into the robodebt scheme. (ABC News: Jon Sambell) © Provided by ABC NEWS Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave evidence at the royal commission into the robodebt scheme. (ABC News: Jon Sambell)

Legal representatives for the former prime minister Scott Morrison have asked for a public interest immunity claim to be lifted, so his full response to the Robodebt royal commission can be made public.

Mr Morrison, also a former minister for social services and treasurer, has been called to appear before the commission next week.

The former prime minister's lawyer, Dr James Renwick SC, has argued in a directions hearing that Mr Morrison's response to the commission — which refers to Economic Review Council meetings and minutes, and cabinet meetings and minutes – should be wholly public.

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Parts currently fall under a public interest immunity claim, which protects the workings of government, such as cabinet confidentiality.

Dr Renwick told Commissioner Catherine Holmes that Mr Morrison's evidence could only be true, correct and complete, if the public interest immunity claim is lifted.

"What is the Commonwealth going to do every time Mr Morrison says, 'Well actually there is a reason I did that, and I'd like to mention it', the Commonwealth's going to say, 'No — cabinet — can't mention it?' It's going to cause enormous practical difficulties."

Private hearing to be held this week

During the legal argument, Commissioner Holmes outlined the situation before her.

"I have to consider the public interest in preservation of confidentially of cabinet material and cabinet committee material," she said.

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"And I have to consider the public interest in Mr Morrison being able to advance his position, which needs me to be able to understand why particular documents actually matter to him … and then there's the public interest in the commission's own role of discovering what actually happened."

A similar application was successfully made by former prime minister Kevin Rudd when he appeared before the royal commission into his government's home insulation scheme in 2014.

A private hearing will be held later this week to further consider the matter.

Former minister for human services Marise Payne is also expected to appear next week, and the royal commission expects to call other former government ministers in later hearings.

Morrison's secrecy appeal before hearing .
Former prime minister Scott Morrison is asking for redacted documents to be opened up to the public before he fronts the robodebt royal commission. © Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS Former prime minister Scott Morrison will appear before Lawyers for the former prime minister argue his reputation could be damaged if the confidential papers are kept under wraps. Mr Morrison was social services minister when the scheme was established in 2015 and prime minister when it was wound back in 2019 after its income-averaging debt calculation method was ruled to be unlawful.

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This is interesting!