Page 503 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022
communication between you and your directorate. Minister, how can you do your job as health minister when your officials in ACT Health refuse to provide you with information that is vital to the decision-making process?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question but completely refute the assertion that she is making. In fact, our officials provide both me and the cabinet regularly with epidemiological updates that include a range of information.
The questions that were pertinent to the Canberra Times freedom of information request related to the information that was going to be provided to a media outlet in response to a media request. So the question was not whether I was going to be able to have that information; the question was: can we have that information in order to provide it to the media? Then there was a conversation about what is appropriate to be provided, what appropriate caveats could be placed on that information, and how that should be described and discussed in relation to a media inquiry, not in relation to the information that I get and that cabinet receives on a regular basis in terms of supporting us to manage the ongoing response to COVID-19.
MS LEE: Minister, has there ever been an instance when you or your office have been refused information from ACT Health, and have you received an explanation for that?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: Again, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. There have indeed been some robust conversations between me and my office and ACT Health about access to information in response to media inquiries. This is often a conversation about what we can provide with absolute confidence.
I want to say here that ACT Health officials take their responsibility to provide accurate information to the ACT public very seriously. They want to know that they can stand behind any information that they provide, and they also take their obligations in relation to privacy of individuals very seriously. They have previously expressed some caution around information that they have been concerned might not be consistent with their obligations under the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997. We have had differences of view about some of that information, when it should be provided, and we have discussed those things openly. But I do not think that that is a bad thing.
Ms Lee: Madam Speaker, a point of order.
MADAM SPEAKER: A point of order?
Ms Lee: The minister is more than halfway through the answer and she has not answered the crux of the question, which is: have there been instances when information has not been provided?
MADAM SPEAKER: She is answering the question, I believe, in order.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: Madam Speaker, I believe that I have in fact answered the question.