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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2192..


PAPERS

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care): Mr Speaker, after question time today I made a statement adding to information I gave last week with regard to the double-counting of surgery. Mr Berry at that stage said that he would like an affidavit or something in writing, on the basis that he did not trust me. I can fully accept that Mr Berry feels that way, and for the information of this Assembly I table a signed document from Allen Hughes indicating that double-counting did exist for some theatre activities from May 1993 to December 1994. I also table the month-by-month statistics.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (AMENDMENT) BILL 1996

Debate resumed from 18 June 1996, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MS FOLLETT (4.39): Mr Speaker, the Opposition will be supporting this Bill. The principal objective of the Bill, as I am sure members are aware, is to extend the coverage of freedom of information legislation to Territory-owned corporations and to ensure that the act of corporatising the body does not mean that FOI no longer applies. Given the current Government's corporatisation agenda, it seems to me that to legislate in this manner is both the sensible and the necessary step to take. We have had Totalcare corporatised as an entity for some time now; the Government has corporatised ACTEW; it seems that the TAB is also to be corporatised; and there may well be other bodies on the Government's agenda. It is the case, in my view, that the Territory-owned corporations make many decisions and keep many documents to which the public might seek access. It is also the case that even following corporatisation, where those documents are demonstrably of a commercial-in-confidence nature, they are protected by the FOI Act from unwarranted public disclosure. I certainly hope that the increasing rate of corporatisation of ACT agencies does not mean that there is even more recourse to the commercial-in-confidence protection. I think that would be very much a backward step.

The Bill makes another reasonably significant change, and that is to extend the right of review to some questions of fees and charges payable under the Act. That means that people will be able to get a review of a decision, say, not to waive an application fee. Furthermore, there is a further review right extended by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We certainly support all of those matters. There are a couple of other aspects that are worth commenting on. Mr Humphries, in his introduction speech, referred to the Bill cleaning up a couple of housekeeping matters. I believe that the only matter that could really be referred to as a housekeeping matter is his proposed deletion of the expired section of the Act that relates to the first report under freedom of information, back in 1990. In other words, the Act, itself, made provision for the first report way back in 1990.


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