Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 15 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5564..
MR SESELJA (continuing):
This amendment expands the definitions to include territory-owned corporations. This gives effect to recommendation 13 of the committee. Mark Sullivan at Actew, in particular, noted that the bill may not cover TOCs, because they have a more commercial structure and are a step removed from government operations. However, they are territory-owned and, as such, should be subject to the same standards required of other territory agencies.
The inclusion of bodies outside strict government departments is not unusual. In New South Wales, the government advertising guidelines must be observed by departments, statutory bodies, declared authorities, and public trading enterprises, as well as Sydney Water Corporation and RailCorp. We believe it is reasonable to include territory-owned corporations. I note that, in the public debate we have had, some of Actew's advertising has been talked about. We have seen the advertising in the lead-up to the election, and we certainly do not believe that territory-owned corporations should be excluded from this legislation.
Our advice from drafters was that that was the case. It was brought up in the committee, and this puts it absolutely beyond any doubt. There has been noted concern from the government about this. We do not share that concern. We believe that, if this bill is going to operate effectively and comprehensively to ensure that we protect taxpayers' dollars from use for purposes that are not legitimate, we should include all agencies that we possibly can, including territory-owned corporations.
I commend this amendment to the Assembly. I think it is an important one to complete it. It follows on from the recommendations of the committee, and it clarifies what the drafters believed to be the case when the initial legislation was drafted.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Land and Property Services, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (3.38): As the government has indicated in its response to the committee report, it does not support this amendment. We do not believe it appropriate that legislation designed to provide a level of scrutiny and an approval regime for government advertising should extend to independent statutory corporations.
As we have indicated, territory-owned corporations are companies. They are subject to the corporations legislation. They are not subject to the same reporting obligations and statutory requirements under which government agencies operate. Territory-owned corporations have commercial obligations that relate to marketing and promotion of their core products rather than engaging in advertising for the purpose of promoting any party-political agenda.
The government does not believe that it is appropriate to subject TOCs to legislation which is purportedly designed for government agency accountability. I think it is relevant, and I note it here, that, in her submissions to the Assembly committee inquiry, the Auditor-General, an authority that the opposition in this place are very keen to defer to and to refer to, expressed quite significant concerns about the