Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2010) . . Page.. 284 ..
The government recognises that tensions will inevitably arise between the desire of the legislature to have access to documents which represent or reflect decisions of the executive government or the matters taken into account by the executive government in arriving at those decisions and the desire of the executive government and indeed the importance of the executive government being able to carry out this decision making freely and confidentially. Generally speaking, there is no right to resist a direction from the legislature for the production of a particular document, except where there is a legitimate claim for executive privilege or public interest immunity. Sir Laurence’s decision was:
Giving the Legislative Assembly access to the Report is inconsistent with ministerial responsibility, individual or collectively, as it is the responsibility of Cabinet to determine what use is to be made of the Report, which was commissioned by it for the sole purposes of the executive government. Production of the Report is not reasonably necessary for the proper performance of the Legislative Assembly’s functions, as all appropriate material relating to the relevant budget and structural decisions were and will be made available as part of the relevant budget legislative process.
Finally, its production would significantly undermine the continued effective operation of the government. The Report is a very clear example of the type of document to be protected from production by executive privilege.
I raise this issue again only as an example to demonstrate that the Assembly’s right to access documents is not unfettered.
In a similar vein, while the government acknowledges the right of Assembly committees to formally summon witnesses to give evidence, their powers do not extend to directing ministers as to which officials they might call on to assist them in giving evidence. If a minister decides to answer a question addressed to an official, that is entirely appropriate. If a minister elects not to invite a particular official to the table, that too is entirely appropriate. Of course, the committee can formally summon whomever it chooses but it cannot direct the executive any more than the executive might purport to direct a judicial officer.
For these reasons, the government supports the great substance of Mrs Dunne’s motion but cannot support the element that I have highlighted. Therefore, I move:
Omit introduction to paragraph (2) and paragraph (2)(a), substitute:
“(2) supports the right of Assembly committees, subject to accepted conventions and privileges, to:
(a) have access to documents and witnesses relevant to matters being considered;”.
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (10.49): The Greens welcome the motion by Mrs Dunne today as an opportunity to comment on the role of committees within the ACT government. We recognise that, in our system of government, one of the most