The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:24): I have heard over and over again in this debate, which is calling for the release of the business case, that the only information that has been kept from us as a parliament is that which is commercially sensitive material that may indeed impact on the merger.
We still do not know who wrote the business case. We have asked in parliament today. I asked in the committee in September. In fact, I addressed 15 of my questions to the universities where I asked directly:
Whilst carrying out the merger feasibility studies can you indicate which consulting companies were appointed and their roles?
The answer I received back—although by the time this answer was received, it was forwarded to my colleague who had taken over my role on the committee—was:
A range of additional external (commercial services) expertise was contracted by each institution separately and individually to support the creation of artefacts which provided input to the Councils' individual decision-making processes.
InDaily, an independent newspaper of this town, followed up with questions directly to both universities, where InDaily asked:
Did the University of Adelaide and/or UniSA engage any consultants/consultancy firms in compiling the business case and financial plan for the merger? If so, who were they and how much were they paid?
Both universities replied with a joint statement to InDaily:
'The approach to establishing a new university for South Australia has been complex and involved assessing legislative options, consumer and competition legislation, Commonwealth regulation, and higher education accreditation, in addition to the development of a business case and transition plan,' a spokesperson said.
They did not even name the spokesperson.
The Hon. R.A. Simms: It's a secret, Tammy.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: It's a secret. The joint statement continued:
'Both universities established project teams made up of internal seconded staff, and engaged legal and strategic independent advisers to verify the analysis and projections.'
InDaily then asked:
Who were the independent advisors? Will the universities name them and if not, why? And how much did the universities pay for this independent advice?
It will shock members of the council to know that the response was:
Any further detail on the engagement of advisors is commercial and confidential.
If somebody can explain to me why the question of 'who prepared the business case?' is required to be kept secret from the people of South Australia and this parliament, and how that in and of itself will sink the merger, I will be very interested in hearing a legitimate reason why that is the case.
For me, it goes to the heart of how some members of this place protest a little too much, claim a little too much credit and claim to have done their due diligence when they do not even know, and we do not even know—or perhaps they do, but we do not—who wrote the document we seek to compel through an order of production of documents today. Information that is commercially sensitive can be redacted, but one wonders: if the consultancy or advisory people or groups are so commercially sensitive that they need to be redacted and hidden from the South Australian public, are there more questions that should have been asked by all of the members of the committee? With that, I commend the motion.