Senator Dean Smith
Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury
Liberal Senator for Western Australia
14 July 2023
LABOR REFUSES TO RELEASE GST DOCUMENTS REQUESTED UNDER FOI
Treasurer Jim Chalmers is again showing up Anthony Albanese’s much vaunted commitment to accountability and transparency in Government by refusing to release hundreds of pages of documents relating to GST discussions between the States and Federal Government.
“The Treasurer is failing to meet the most basic transparency requirements and has flaunted the Freedom of Information process since March this year when my office first made a request regarding details of the GST distribution system,” Senator Dean Smith said.
Treasury officials confirmed during Senate Estimates that 91 new FOI requests were received between 1 January and 30 April 2023, but 8 were not finalised within the statutory timeframe of 30 days and one was not finalised within 30 days of the due date.
On 28 June, the Treasurer’s office issued a ‘practical refusal grounds’ to Senator Smith’s request, blocking the release of more than 500 pages of documents on the basis it would place an unreasonable burden on his “small number of office staff” and that it would “substantially and unreasonably interfere with the performance of the Minister’s functions”.
The recent announcement confirming WA’s AAA credit rating was, predictably, met with a barrage of complaints from State Premiers and Treasurers about WA’s GST deal.
“Documents that my office managed to source through other Senate information gathering processes confirm that the GST system has been discussed at meetings between State Treasurers and the Federal Treasurer since the election of the Albanese Government,” Senator Smith said.
In a letter to the Federal Treasurer on 30 January 2023, the ACT Chief Minister confirmed the GST “no-worse off guarantee” had been discussed at the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) on 9 September 2022, and asked for a “process and timeframe for resolution of this issue” be discussed at the next meeting of the CFFR.
“The use of Freedom on Information laws and other Senate information gathering processes have become more necessary than ever after Labor changed the rules governing the Council on Federal Financial Relations in December last year, making all its discussions and documents confidential,” Senator Smith said.
“Western Australians have a right to know what secret deals the Albanese Government might be hatching with other States in order to meet their demands for greater GST funding.
“WA’s Federal Labor representatives cannot allow our GST win to be whittled away with secret side deals, potentially robbing WA of its fair share of funding for roads, hospitals and vital infrastructure.”