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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 August 1993) . . Page.. 2564 ..

Freedom of Information Charges

MR LAMONT: My question is directed to the Deputy Chief Minister. I refer to criticism by the current Leader of the Opposition in relation to charges for the processing of freedom of information requests, in particular, requests for information about the hospice and pregnancy termination services. Can the Minister inform the Assembly what is the application fee under the FOI Act and what is the average charge for a request?

MR BERRY: I thank Mr Lamont for the question. This is classic Carnell - foot on the loud pedal before you engage the grey matter. This is a classic; the pharmacist's placebo; another classic one imposed upon the community of the ACT. I heard her this morning on the radio whingeing about the costs of freedom of information, the very same costs that members of the community have to bear if they make an application for information. I heard her complaining about the costs, but not once has she tried to make out a claim that there was financial hardship, and neither could she, given her salary, given her staffing levels and the fact that she is only a part-time pollie. Our part-time pollie surely could afford to pay the $30. There is a range of facilities within her role as the Leader of the Opposition, the part-time pollie of the ACT, to get access to information. It is the highest paid part-time job I have heard of. She can have access here to question time, as she has done today, and ask as many questions as she likes on any issue that she likes and be fully informed - or better informed, at least. Soaking up the information seems to be a bit of a problem.

There is full access to the committee process. At the Estimates Committee you are able to have a full range of bureaucrats in front of you and to harass them until they wither. You can do that during the estimates process. In all of the other committee processes you are able to question bureaucrats closely and gain information from them. You have far more access to information than people out there in the community and it is very hard for you to make out an argument that there is financial hardship, because there cannot be.

Mrs Carnell: We are not trying to. It is just the public interest thing. No, it was the public interest.

MR BERRY: The complaint that I heard on the radio this morning was that it was too costly. Not once have you raised the issue of financial hardship, because you would fail. You also have to question how serious Mrs Carnell is about asking questions. These are just some of the topical issues that Mrs Carnell claimed in this morning's radio interview. In 1992 she asked one question about the hospice, two questions about Acton Peninsula, and one question about the relocation of QEII to Acton. That was a very serious pursuit of information, I would suggest! She was very busy! These are questions that have been asked in this Assembly.

Mr De Domenico: Did you answer them?

MR BERRY: Of course I answered them. I always answer the question and I always give you the information that you ask for; but I give you the information that you do not want, too, and this is some of that. In relation to pregnancy termination, in 1992 there was not one question. In 1993 Mrs Carnell has asked two questions about the hospice; and no questions about pregnancy terminations.

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