Not for public(ation)

by Alia Armistead

Budgets are an essential part of Australia’s democratic system, with budget papers giving the public a valuable opportunity to see how much money is being spent and on what. Some items in federal budgets are not made public, however, and are marked ‘not for publication’ or ‘nfp’.

Often, items claimed as ‘nfp’ are still being negotiated, considered commercially sensitive, or relate to national security. While there may be circumstances where non-publication of budget information is justified, in the interests of transparency these instances should be kept to a minimum. Instead, they have become more common in recent years.

Though not record-breaking this year, the occurrence of ‘nfp’ still shows an upward trend in spending secrecy, shown in the Figure below.

Figure: Count of ‘nfp’ – not for publication – in budget paper 2 by year
Figure: Count of ‘nfp’ – not for publication – in budget paper 2 by year

A number of climate and energy items are classified as ‘nfp’ in this year’s budget, including:

  • Funding for the Clean Energy Regulator for managing Emissions Reduction Fund contracts
  • Disaster support
  • 70,000 tonnes of coal for the Ukraine
  • Replenishing crude oil stocks to fulfill International Energy Agency obligations

Coal has been trading upwards of $400 per tonne out of Newcastle, where the shipment to the Ukraine will leave from. Unless Whitehaven Coal provided a discount to the Australian Government for the deal, that is more than $28 million spent on coal for the Ukraine, without any plans on how the coal will actually get there.

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