The business case for the controversial $2.3bn redevelopment plans for Sydney’s two major stadiums and the 2016 Tune report on out-of-home care for at-risk children will see the light of day this week.
The Berejiklian government agreed to release the reports, with redactions, but insisted it was doing so voluntarily and not in response to orders from the upper house that were passed after a frustrated Liberal crossed the floor.
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But this decision may raise new questions of whether, by releasing documents voluntarily, the government has waived its claim of privilege in what has become a very public tussle between the parliament and the executive over accountability.
Both reports will shed light on two of the most controversial policies of the Berejiklian government. The government has claimed privilege over a third report on the cost of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, saying its release would give a commercial advantage to developers interested in the project.
The redevelopment of the stadiums – Stadium Australia was built for the 2000 Olympics and Allianz at Moore Park in 1988 – has been deeply unpopular and prompted a social media campaign questioning whether it was the right priority for government spending.
The report is expected to reveal the options considered by parliament and the assumptions used to justify the spending plan, which includes demolishing Allianz and substantially remodelling Stadium Australia.
The 2016 report by David Tune was an in-depth review of the New South Wales government’s policies of taking at-risk children and placing them with foster parents. The policy disproportionately affects Indigenous children and Aboriginal groups have said it is creating a new stolen generation.
Tune’s report, which is highly critical of the policy, will reveal the extent to which the government has adopted or ignored his findings.
In the meantime, members of the upper house are gearing up for a new tussle over whether the government can claim privilege over documents it releases voluntarily.
In a letter accompanying the documents, which were sent to the clerk’s office, the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Tim Reardon, said: “The Legislative Council has no power to require such documents to be produced.
“On this occasion however, the government has decided to provide the documents sought to the Legislative Council on a voluntary basis even though the council has no power to require such production.”
The opposition leader in the Legislative Council, Labor’s Adam Searle, said the government could not have it both ways.
“The only way a privilege claim can be recognised is if the government has been compelled to produce the documents by parliament,” he said. “If the government has voluntarily handed them over, legally it has surrendered any privilege claim it may have.
“In its efforts to be too clever by half, it has scored a legal own-goal.”
Greens MLC David Shoebridge said it was clear from the list of documents that the Coalition had been playing ugly politics with a fundamental part of democracy: access to information.
“These are essential pieces of the puzzle that the public has a right to access to help them understand where public money is being spent,” he said. “Billions of dollars are being lavished on vanity projects like rebuilding stadiums and moving museums while essential spending is missing in child protection.
“Whatever the politics about the business cases for the stadiums and Powerhouse it is nothing short of criminal that the Tune report on child protection hasn’t been released. Playing politics with the futures of vulnerable children can’t become the new norm in NSW.”
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