Page 2664 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 21 September 2022

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Cabinet records are defined as:

• a document given to Cabinet for its consideration or created for that purpose

• an official record of Cabinet.

The guiding principle of my bill is to encourage better governance, open governance, and enhance public confidence in government through transparency. Lacking the usual checks and balances provided by an upper house or house of review, we need more open government not less.

My bill strikes the right balance between genuine cabinet confidentiality, where documents that are clearly not in the public interest to be released will continue to be protected, and the need for the utmost transparency and openness of decisions made by cabinet that have an extraordinary impact on our community.

My bill clearly describes exemptions where public release of information would reasonably be expected to endanger a person’s life or physical safety, limit a person’s rights, prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation or discloses information contrary to the public interest, per schedule 1 and schedule 2, part 2.2 of the Freedom of Information Act.

An exemption would also apply to cabinet records where government intends to make the decision and related materials public within 50 business days of making the decision, or if it relates to a bill to be presented to the Legislative Assembly.

My bill describes actions to be undertaken by a minister if a record is subject to exemption. If the minister does not publish a record for a prescribed reason, they would be required to provide an explanation for the decision not to publish and give consideration to releasing any relevant factual material.

We are not alone in being a unicameral parliament. This is a policy that has been operating in New Zealand since 2018, which also has one house like our own. Whilst there are some mixed reviews about the actual implementation of the policy, if every member in this place, and in particular the members of cabinet, are committed to transparency and open government, there is no reason—no excuse—not to have this work the way it is intended, to provide confidence and trust in government decisions here in the ACT.

Only a few months ago, the Queensland Labor government immediately agreed to a recommendation calling for the same thing, as a result of a scathing integrity review. Whilst we await the actual implementation of that policy, we in this jurisdiction are in a position to take leadership and get this right. Transparency and open government are fundamental aspects of what makes good democracy and we, every member in this place, must always strive to improve this.

Earlier this year I tabled an exposure draft of this bill and received some constructive feedback from members of the community. To those who took the time to read my bill and provide me with feedback, thank you. The community is calling for, and

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