Red and blue books best kept hidden, say mandarins

Releasing the red and blue books to the public could damage the relationship between government and the public service or lead to substandard advice, say former senior public servants.

Incoming government briefings — commonly known as the red and blue books — should continue to be treated as cabinet documents and thus not be released in full to the public, say former senior public servants.

The Daniel Andrews Labor government in Victoria has refused to release the contents of its red book under Freedom of Information, despite Labor criticising the Baillieu and Napthine governments for similar actions while in opposition.

The briefings are written by bureaucrats for incoming governments, with those prepared for Labor known as “red books” and those for the Coalition as “blue books”.

But former senior public servants have expressed concern about the potential impact of increased transparency on such briefings.

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