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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3916..

Government Transparency Legislation Amendment Bill 2007 [No 2]

Mrs Dunne, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today I re-present the Government Transparency Legislation Amendment Bill. This bill is the result of my experiences and those of other members of the Canberra community over the last year in our attempts to obtain information about the motivations of the Stanhope government in its decisions to close 23 schools in Canberra.

We all remember that in April 2006 the new minister for education, and new member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr Barr, made commitments to openness. He said in this place on a number of occasions that everything in relation to school closures would be on the table. That was another of the great Labor lies in relation to school closures. Like the other great lie, which was that "We won't close schools in this term,"the commitment to openness was an empty one. My experiences as the shadow minister for education, and those of countless members of the community over the last year, and continuing to this day, have been that the Stanhope government's commitment and Mr Barr's commitment to openness and accountability were mere words and nothing else.

The proposed amendments in the bill I have introduced today begin what the Canberra Liberals see as being a very overdue revamp of the Freedom of Information Act. These first steps are taken as a result of my experiences and the experiences of my constituents.

I would like to give members some context and the reasons for my passion on the subject of freedom of information. Back in 1982, when the commonwealth freedom of information legislation was introduced, I was a freedom of information officer. I helped to set up the FOI arrangements in the commonwealth department of education before the act commenced and I worked as an officer providing advice on the release of documents for some time after the commencement of the act.

Over the years, I have had considerable contact with freedom of information matters. When I was a staffer to a minister in this place, it was one of the things that I was very concerned was done properly. One of the first occasions when I realised that there was trouble afoot in the ACT when it came to FOI matters was when I was approached by an official who rang me and said, "We have got this FOI request about a particular matter and there are some documents here that might embarrass the minister if they were released."The official asked me, "What do you want me to do?"The official was told to go away and apply the act irrespective of whether a minister would be embarrassed by it or not. It is the official's job, after the release of documents, to perhaps tell the minister or the minister's office that those papers had been released,

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