Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2414..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Dear Mr Humphries,
I refer to your letter dated 24 January 2001 about establishing a general understanding of the circumstances in which Government might exercise its discretion to release specific Cabinet and related documents.
There is no argument between us that the exemption is in the general interest of the effective conduct of Government business. Indeed, the High Court has upheld the principles underlying the exemption ie the need for Cabinet secrecy and collective Cabinet responsibility-
something sadly missing around this place-
However, I do not think there is a workable alternative to considering each case on its merits.
Section 13, which permits or, interpreted in the light of the object of the Act, even encourages release of documents other than under the Act, gives greater force to the view that the exemption provided to Executive documents by section 35 is neither automatic nor absolute.
Section 35 is in the same terms as the Commonwealth Act's section 34. You would be aware of cases determined in the High Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal on section 34 that say that each document must be examined and a decision made on the merits of the particular case.
The guidelines you propose could certainly be used in coming to a decision on each document but should not be regarded as binding on the decision maker who may wish or be required to have regard to other considerations.
I look forward to the decision on my request.
Jon Stanhope MLA
I have not heard from the Chief Minister since. My Freedom of Information Act application is yet to be responded to. It is now two years out of date.
Mr Pat Torpy-Retirement
Mr Jeff House
MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (10.20), in reply: I would like to respond on one small element that Mr Stanhope raised before I proceed to some other issues. If Mr Quinlan would wait for a moment, it would be appreciated. I will come to the reasons for that in a moment. The response to Mr Stanhope is that there is a collective cabinet responsibility. There are exemptions to that which I have arranged with the Chief Minister and which are public knowledge, but in the vast majority of cases there is a collective cabinet responsibility.