Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2010) . . Page.. 288 ..
and effectiveness of the committees and prevents frank and fearless discussion between committee members.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.02): The Liberal opposition will be supporting these amendments. The insertion of “timely” is an improvement on that which went before and the insertion of paragraph (3) is a further enhancement to the spirit of the motion, and I thank Ms Bresnan for her input.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11:03): As the government has previously indicated in its amendment which has just been defeated by the Assembly, the government does not agree that access to documents is unfettered. I have made those points earlier in the debate and I simply reiterate them now. Access cannot be unfettered. There are conventions and practices that are relevant in parliaments across the commonwealth that indicate that there are instances where executive privilege can be legitimately claimed and that has been respected by parliaments. For this parliament to assert that it does not agree with that convention is extraordinary.
On what grounds does this parliament and do those members who support this motion argue that access is completely unfettered? It is not the convention, it is not the practice, in any commonwealth parliament in the country, and it is for that reason that we have the independent arbiter process. If the Assembly agreed with the notion that access was unfettered in all circumstances, why did the Assembly agree to an independent arbiter process in claims for executive privilege?
Mr Seselja: We didn’t.
MR CORBELL: The Liberals at least are being consistent on this matter. I hear Mr Seselja’s interjection and he is correct: they did not agree to it. They think it should be access in all circumstances. But the Greens are now saying that they support both the need for an arbitration process when there is a dispute over a document and that access should be unfettered. Well, which is it, Greens? Is it unfettered access in all circumstances or is it a recognition that there are circumstances where access is not unfettered and it needs to be arbitrated? It is one or the other, but it cannot be both, and that is the difficulty with the Greens’ position in this place. Is it one or the other?
Ms Hunter: No, you’re wrong, Simon.
MR CORBELL: It is both? I take it from Ms Hunter’s interjection that it is both; access must be unfettered but there is also a dispute resolution process. Well, no, that is just logically not consistent. I think the Greens really need to come to terms with some of the nuances of parliamentary practice and convention, because this shows a real failure on their part.
For the reasons I have outlined, the government cannot agree with this amendment because the government does not agree that access to all executive documents is completely unfettered. As I indicated in my amendment previously, there are circumstances where claims of executive privilege are legitimate and in the public interest and we will maintain that position.