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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 3 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 653..


Wednesday, 8 March 2000

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MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

PUBLIC ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS BILL 2000

MR OSBORNE (10.31): I present the Public Access to Government Contracts Bill 2000, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR OSBORNE: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this is a fairly simple piece of legislation, but an important one within the context of having open and accountable government. I think all members have learnt a lot within the past few months about the vagaries of the term "commercial-in-confidence". There is, of course, a genuine need to protect the privacy of information that is commercially sensitive to a company as they go about doing their business with government. Unfortunately, as we have seen, there are times when this facility is abused and the public interest is not served.

This legislation seeks to enforce the public's right to know how their money is being spent and how public assets are managed, while giving business confidence that their privacy is protected. This legislation requires government to make public within 21 days the details of all contracts entered into. This could be done either by making copies of the contract available for purchase or by putting the contract on the Internet, where it could be obtained without charge.

In determining the handling of genuine commercially sensitive information, I have included criteria taken from the Government's handbook Principles and Guidelines for the Treatment of Commercial Information Held by ACT Government Agencies. I think most members are aware of this document and are comfortable with its contents.

I have included in a schedule to the Bill a model confidentiality clause taken from the Government's current guidelines. This will ensure that strict criteria are applied to what constitutes commercial confidentiality and the way it is protected in a government contract. Where commercial information is included in a government contract, it obviously should not be made available to the public, and it will not under the terms of this legislation. However, rather than the whole contract being made commercial-in-confidence as has been the practice in the past, only the information which


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