Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 25 March 2010) . . Page.. 1572 ..
opposition, when using the processes available to them under the FOI system, to ensure that their requests are suitably focused and well targeted so that they get the information they need without imposing an undue burden on professional public servants.
Under our system and practices, the opposition would seem to have a remarkable and perhaps historic access to government information, which of course is due to Labor’s dedication to the principle of open, honest and accountable government. This love of openness must be tempered by the equally compelling need to preserve, from time to time, the possibility of confidentiality.
What we all seek, I am sure, is a balance, one that requires openness from the government, but a measure of responsibility also from those who use democratic processes to exercise scrutiny. In finding this balance, I am sure we can also find trust and respect for our respective roles, something which just lately is sadly lacking.
MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (4.34): On 16 June last year, we discussed this exact matter. It was proposed by Mr Seselja on that day. On that occasion, much of the discussion focused on the estimates process, and various members of this place expressed their respective views on the adequacy and outcomes of that process. Given that we are about to begin the budget process again, I think it is worth while reflecting on last year’s process and hopefully members can learn from any errors we may feel were made and can make the most of this year’s process. And, of course, I am very pleased to be chairing estimates this year.
It is true to say that the openness and comprehensiveness of the budget papers and the estimates process is one of the most important elements of government accountability. I hope that, in recognition of this, the government will ensure the quality of the budget papers and the availability of ministers and public servants for questioning during the estimates process.
Open and accountable government is perhaps the most fundamental element of our democracy. Without it, Canberrans cannot make informed decisions at election time and the fundamental premise upon which our system is based would be frustrated. We know that, in the last Assembly, the government was not as open and accountable as they should have been. In fact, at times their approach to the Assembly was contemptuous. The people of Canberra have said that this is not what they want from their representatives; so today we have a very different Assembly, an Assembly that consists of three parties.
The Greens-Labor parliamentary agreement outlines a range of measures to improve openness and accountability. From the first available opportunity, the Greens have worked to improve openness and transparency and improve the quality of the legislature in the ACT. The Greens are very proud of our achievements in the very short time we have been here. However, we know that we still have an enormous amount of work to do. I would like to take the opportunity to list the improvements that have been made in the first year and a bit of the Seventh Assembly.