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Premier pulls deputy into line on cabinet secrecy

Politics

Jay Weatherill has slapped down his deputy John Rau, after the Attorney-General publicly contradicted the embattled Premier in parliament yesterday over his refusal to release cabinet documents to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption’s Oakden investigation.

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For the third day running, Weatherill today refused interview requests from InDaily over the damaging rift with Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander, who has been hammered by the Government on three fronts.

Labor has refused his request for public hearings and ignored his plea to stop talking down the investigation as an “Ombudsman’s inquiry”, while the Premier has firmly ruled out providing any cabinet documents to the commission.

However, in parliament yesterday Rau appeared to soften that stance, saying that while cabinet documents were “confidential” and “exempt” from production, “if the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption in a particular matter made a particular request pertinent to that matter, it was of course open to the cabinet to consider that request on an ad hoc basis”.

“Obviously, if such a request were made it would be considered,” he said.

He noted that the clarification of cabinet confidentiality was prompted by an “extremely rare” event, whereby documents – which related to the Gillman land deal – had “been extracted by reason of a Supreme Court order”.

“That was a very unusual circumstance… our position has been, and remains, cabinet documents are cabinet documents and they remain, as they have always been, confidential,” he said.

However, when asked by the Opposition whether cabinet would consider an ICAC application for documents related to Oakden, Rau said: “This is a completely hypothetical question… the position is that there is no request for anything as far as I am aware, and if a request were to come forward, that would be a matter to be determined on its merits at that point in time.”

The Attorney’s response seemed significantly at odds with that of the Premier, who told media this week he would not waive rules to make cabinet documents available to scrutiny.

“There is a public interest protection for cabinet documents, and that won’t be waived,” he said on Tuesday.

“Cabinet documents are not the subject of scrutiny… but there’s plenty of evidence that can be given about the steps that were taken outside the cabinet process.”

He was subsequently asked in parliament whether he would ensure that “all submissions sought by the commissioner will be provided”, to which he replied: “No, there will be no release of cabinet documents… No cabinet in the Westminster system releases cabinet documents.”

Weatherill’s office told InDaily today he was “not available for an interview”.

A spokesman quoted the section of Rau’s answer in parliament yesterday, which read: “Our position has been, and remains, cabinet documents are cabinet documents and they remain, as they have always been, confidential.”

“That’s entirely consistent with the Premier’s position,” he said.

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