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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 25 March 2010) . . Page.. 1578 ..

We are heading into a very busy time in the sitting calendar and a time—(Time expired.)

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (4.53): I would like to thank Mr Coe for raising this matter of public importance as it is still a very interesting and pertinent topic despite the fact, as has been pointed out, that we did debate this same topic last June.

The first thing I would like to just briefly touch upon is Mr Doszpot’s comments on the Labor-Greens parliamentary agreement. We still seem to have a degree of misunderstanding about this. It is not something—maybe unfortunately—which is sacred. It is not sacred; you can quote from it. Mr Doszpot, it is on the Greens’ website, and it was in fact, I believe, tabled in this Assembly earlier in the year, or last year, so it is quite quotable from.

Also, things that government ministers do are entirely matters which questions can be asked about and have been asked about. What the government does is open to scrutiny at question time, and we have already been through this at some length.

The Greens, as Ms Hunter has already outlined, as well as the Liberal Party, and I believe the Labor Party, are concerned that governments work openly and in an honest and accountable manner. It is something we have worked for and something we will continue to work for. Ms Hunter has already talked about the reforms the Greens have proposed to help our Assembly processes work better, to provide better accountability and transparency.

I will not go through all the ground which I covered last year on the general issues. It is probably true that there is some difference of opinion between the Greens and the Liberal Party as to the best ways of keeping a government honest. I guess one of the bigger differences is that we probably approach more the broad range of avenues of scrutiny which are available to the Assembly, including, as I started to outline earlier this week, scrutiny of legislation and government reports and plans; questions on notice and questions not on notice, especially questions relating to policies and programs; the budget estimates and annual reports processes, which are both substantial opportunities to investigate the implementation of programs; the committee process, which is often used when other processes of the Assembly are inadequate or unsuitable; investigations of commissioners and reports of the Auditor-General; and engaging in government consultations processes. And, if none of these allow enough scrutiny, FOI of course can be used for specific questions.

I was a bit concerned by the Chief Minister’s comments earlier in this matter of public importance about the costs of FOI and questions on notice. I think they are legitimate costs of having an open, honest and accountable government, and it is very important that we just accept them as such rather than as a burden or an impost.

One of the most important ways that the government as a whole is held to account is the fact that we right now are in a situation of minority government. Mr Coe in his opening speech spoke a lot about things which happened during the period of majority government; but the people of Canberra decided that majority government was not

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