Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3134..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
community that, by putting in a submission, they could make again themselves vulnerable.
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Tucker. I have to say that that had not come into my thinking. It is not a position that I am aware has been put to the department, in relation to the discussion paper: that there would be people wishing, or proposing, to make a submission who were concerned that a submission they might make to the discussion paper would, of itself, raise issues in relation to themselves. I understand what you are suggesting-that there are people who would wish to make disclosures. It makes me wonder, in the circumstance that I imagine you are alluding to, if the issue with the constituents you are referring to is that they are in effect proposing a public interest disclosure as part of their submission to the discussion paper.
That aside, there may be people who would like to make a submission to a public process-essentially a process inviting submissions or comment on a discussion paper or a way forward in relation to a piece of legislation. I think it would be unique for those submissions to be regarded as confidential or requiring a status that did not require their disclosure. However, in what some might regard as a circumstance that might expose them to retribution of some sort, maybe there are mechanisms we could utilise to ensure that there is potential for such evidence or representations to be treated as in camera, for instance.
I probably need to take some advice on it but I would certainly not like to think that there is anybody who would, in a genuine sense, like to make a submission to a public inquiry who feels disinclined to do so on the basis that they fear retribution, so I would be more than happy to look at what mechanism we could put in place to ensure that there is nobody who feels so potentially open to threat that they would not make a submission in the first place.
I imagine we can achieve a mechanism of some sort but I will take advice on the detail of it. I would have to take into account things like the application and operation of the Freedom of Information Act and how we would ensure that that did not apply to submissions made to a public governmental process.
So there are other competing issues such as that in relation to the operations of government. That submissions can be made to a public process and for those submissions to be treated as not acceptable to the Freedom of Information Act, for instance, perhaps raises some considerations for me, but I am open to the possibility, Ms Tucker, and I am more than happy to explore it.
MS TUCKER: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, could you also tell the Assembly what you envisage the process will be once the submissions are in? Do you intend to make the revised document public? Do you have a timeframe for potential action?
MR STANHOPE: I have not given detailed consideration to the process post the completion of the public phase of the inquiry into the operation of the public interest disclosure legislation. I am very aware of your interest in the legislation. Indeed, I think it is fair for me to acknowledge that it was through your probing questions in question time that this inquiry is a matter of fact.