Politics with Michelle Grattan: Rex Patrick on Freedom of Information and Australia's submarines

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Senator Rex Patrick is currently challenging the secrecy around Scott Morrison’s national cabinet. He’s brought legal action – the outcome is pending – to attempt to have the minutes of this body, which includes federal, state and territory leaders, made public. The government claims the documents are protected by an exemption for cabinet documents in the freedom of information act, while Patrick claims national cabinet lacks some of the essential features that would afford it that cover.

Patrick’s also pressing for improvements in the freedom information law, which has become increasingly obstacle-ridden, to allow applicants more rights. It’s perhaps no wonder former senator Nick Xenophon, for whom Patrick once worked, labelled him “Inspector Rex”.

On a very different front, as a former submariner Patrick has been highly critical of the government’s Future Submarine Program, which has contracted a French company to build 12 submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. Patrick says the company is taking too long, and charging too much, to make submarines which may fail to achieve the necessary sovereign capability.

In this podcast, Patrick says Scott Morrison should take the opportunity during his coming meeting with French President Macron to issue an ultimatum that changes must be made.

“You know, despite the good relationship we may have with France, this is a matter of national security, and it’s also a matter of a huge amount of public expenditure. And the prime minister must put the Australian public before that relationship. And I think it would be wise for him to be just very frank and honest with the French president.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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