The Guardian 26 October, 2005

Impact on families top secret

John Howard will keep his election promise to have family impact statements done on crucial issues. He just won’t let families see them. Media outlets were stunned this week when the government informed them that promised statements on the sale of Telstra and industrial relations changes had been labelled top secret.

The Prime Minister announced the family impact statements in the lead-up to last year’s federal election, picking up an initiative of Family First spokesman, Steve Fielding.

The status of the assessments was revealed when Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper applied for them under freedom of association provisions.

The formal application was rejected on the grounds that they were classified Cabinet documents.

Senator Fielding said Australians had been deceived and called for the documents to be released.

He said if the Prime Minister had informed voters that family impact statements would be restricted to cabinet members they would have questioned their worth. The rationale for the statements was to provide an assessment on how proposed legislation, or initiatives, would impact on families.

"Australian families would prefer to get the information and judge for themselves", Mr Fielding said.

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