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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4333..


MS TUCKER: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. I do not know whether the Chief Minister can answer this right now. What is your immediate response to the concern that whistleblowers cannot be offered interim protection from unlawful reprisal and can obtain relief only once the agencies can be assured they have a strong legal case?

MR STANHOPE: I will take detailed advice and respond to Ms Tucker in depth in relation to that. The ACT government and all agencies, as far as I am concerned, take the Public Interest Disclosure Act seriously and they take the rights and interests of employees who seek to utilise the Public Interest Disclosure Act seriously. I will take advice on the specifics of the question you ask.

I need to make the point that the ACT is blessed with a public service of genuine quality. It is a public service that can hold its head up high and with pride in relation to its operations, its commitment to its workers and employees, and a genuine commitment to the implementation of all policies and all legislation relevant to employees. It is always with concern that I feel, in the face of the question such as the one asked by Ms Tucker, that there is an implication that in some way our public service is failing; that in some way our managers in the public service-our senior executives-would not implement not just the letter of the law but also the spirit of the public interest disclosure legislation.

Perhaps we all need to make some greater commitment to the operation of the public interest disclosure that has been a feature of question time over the last month or so. There may be a case for some greater education within the community, particularly throughout the ACT public service, in relation to its operations.

For instance, it needs to be understood by those that would utilise the Public Interest Disclosure Act and seek to make what they regard as a public interest disclosure, that it does not give them cart blanche to spray over the whole of Canberra boxfuls or filing cabinet loads of government information or papers. It does not, of its own, give employees cart blanche to say, "I want to leak a whole range of documents for whatever reason, and I am simply going to leak them and then claim public interest disclosure to protect my unauthorised behaviour."

There is a feeling that concerns me, which is generated by some of the comment or reporting in relation to public interest disclosure, that if it is classified as a public interest disclosure, then any behaviour is permitted or OK. It is simply not the case; that is not how public interest disclosure operates. It does not give licence simply to leak a bucketful of papers to the opposition, for instance. Those are government documents, owned by the government.

It is not appropriate that government documents and information-I am referring to a recent case of notoriety-be simply sprayed around the community for anybody that cares to take a copy and then for that behaviour to be justified on the basis of it being a public interest disclosure, so the behaviour is warranted or justified. I make those comments apropos of the need for some greater education that would benefit each of us and, indeed, those people that would seek to utilise the legislation.

To the extent that there is an implication in Ms Tucker's question that our public service managers, department and authorities are to be found wanting in their respect for public


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