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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 2 Hansard (1 March) . . Page.. 399..


Wednesday, 1 March 2000

______________________

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AMENDMENT BILL 2000

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.34): I present the Financial Management Amendment Bill 2000, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this is a Bill to amend the Financial Management Act 1996 to limit the use of clauses that prevent or impede, or purport to prevent or impede, disclosure to the Legislative Assembly of information in government contracts. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, there has been much public debate recently over the meaning and use of the term "commercial-in-confidence". The term has, in the view of some, become a cloak for withholding information about government dealings from the public and from this Assembly.

This Bill does not attempt to define "commercial-in-confidence" or to set guidelines for the Government as to when it is appropriate to withhold information from the taxpayer and the Assembly. The Bill is more direct than that. It makes void any provision of a contract that prevents or impedes, or purports to prevent or impede, the disclosure to the Legislative Assembly of the terms and conditions of the contract. The Bill also declares void any provision of a contract that prevents or impedes, or purports to prevent or impede, production to the Assembly of any document containing the contract or part of the contract. The proposed section does not affect the validity of any other clause of the contract.

The Bill recognises that there may be appropriate occasions for withholding sensitive information, so it provides that a Minister may certify that a provision that would otherwise be void under the proposed section is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances of the particular contract. The Minister must give to the Auditor-General for examination a copy of each contract for which a certificate is given. Under the


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