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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2334 ..

estimated at only 1.3 per cent. Because of the rather dramatic changes in figures it did raise questions as to how this could have occurred.

At the time neither the head of the Chief Minister’s Department nor the minister was able to explain these disparities, but in replies that were provided to questions on notice it was explained that this is a consequence of bringing a fifth minister into the cabinet process. It was contended that, with a normal pattern of growth, the new rate of growth contemplated would be the pattern for the future.

It left, still, however, an absence of an explanation as to why this would have occurred over two years. That question does remain unanswered. I know there is an explanation, but I am just a little intrigued as to what the explanation is if the fifth minister point of view is advanced.

There was also a matter raised that seemed to come up on a number of occasions through estimates—and it was partly because the chair kept wanting to keep the detail of this out of our report—which dealt with an issue of disclosure to a third party of information that was made by way of representation to the Chief Minister by an aggrieved constituent within Reid. Without canvassing all of the planning and heritage issues which are the subject of that person’s distress—and I am not as close to that matter as Mr Seselja and Mr Smyth are—there was a concern that information that was taken in good faith to the Chief Minister by a staff member was relayed on to interests outside of government. That was a matter of some concern. That was secondary, really, to the central budget issue in this category, but that was the only matter that we had some concerns about.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (11.51): The component of $4.8 million is a relatively small amount in the overall budget, but it is important to focus on it. It deals with the roles of ministers and their staff and their ability to do their jobs; so in that regard it is exceedingly important. A particular issue I think is the scrutiny of the activities of ministers, such as the nature and relevance of their travel, for example, overseas trips that they might undertake. On this side of the house we have always maintained, of course, that overseas travel is important but must be appropriate.

I want to comment briefly on the point raised by Mr Mulcahy about the issue of privacy when constituents approach us. We were approached by an individual who had sought ministerial meetings with, at that stage, Minister Wood, Minister Corbell and the Chief Minister. He was unable to see any of the ministers and was eventually able to see one of the advisers of the Chief Minister. He told that adviser certain details, which were then relayed to a residents group.

We believe that is entirely inappropriate and that there should be serious concern about the behaviour in that case—making information known beyond that which is given to us in our position as an elected representative of the community. I think the issue that was raised in estimates will be ongoing. It will certainly be pursued by the opposition because there are still answers to be obtained there. There is certainly no closure for the family involved, that has been through a process lasting more than 18 months. The point we would simply make here under “ACT executive” is that all members need to be aware that their staff must maintain the privacy of information given to them by our constituents, and that that applies equally to ministers as it does to backbenchers.

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