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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 8 Hansard (11 August) . .

Page.. 2787..

Freedom of Information Bill 2016

Debate resumed.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change) (4.05): I seek leave to move amendments Nos 10, 11, 12 and 15 circulated in my name together.

Leave granted.

MR CORBELL: I move amendments Nos 10, 11, 12 and 15 circulated in my name together [see schedule 2 at page 2852]. The amendments deal with open access information.

Government amendment 10 removes the minutes of any meeting held by a body mentioned in paragraph (g) from the definition of open access information. Bodies mentioned in paragraph (g) include boards, committees, councils, panels and other bodies established to advise an agency or a minister. It is the government's view that this provision is too broad. For example, there is a lack of clarity as to the breadth of the definition of committee, including whether this definition includes an internal committee. The government has concerns that this provision may stifle frank and fearless discussion, which may lead to a detriment in the quality of advice provided to agencies or ministers.

Government amendment 11 removes any report or study prepared by an agency or an expert from the definition of open access information. This omission is proposed because the government has concerns that this provision may limit seeking external expert advice as an evidence base for policy development.

Government amendment 12 changes the time frame from three years to five years for the release of open access information. This applies to incoming minister briefs, parliamentary estimates briefs, annual report briefs and question time briefs. The time line has been changed to five years from three, as three years is within the term of a government, and changes to five years would foster frank and fearless advice continuing to be provided to government.

Government amendment 15 amends the definition of "policy document" in relation to the open access scheme to insert subclause 23(2)(b) to make clear that it does not include drafts of policy documents. In the policy development process, the final product of a policy is the result of extensive consultation, both internally and externally to government, and includes work in progress. Some of this information can be highly sensitive and can include aspects where legal advice is sought. Furthermore, providing every iteration of a policy may cause confusion and fail to properly articulate the agreed government position.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.08): The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this tranche of amendments. But, again, these are issues which are quite open for debate, and I think experience will show us in future that perhaps we are being a little too cautious on this occasion.

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