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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 26 August 2010) . . Page.. 4041 ..

The second amendment is to standing order 212A, and this relates to the types of documents which are automatically authorised for publication when presented to the Assembly and hence the track to parliamentary privilege. Currently, this is limited to committee reports and papers as well as Auditor-General’s reports. Any other paper requires a motion to be moved in the Assembly allowing for publication.

It would be fair to say that many requests are received asking for copies of tabled papers, particularly from the media, but the Secretariat is unable to comply without first obtaining the permission of the Speaker. Whilst that is something we are obviously willing to do, many of these documents are ones that all members of the Assembly would be comfortable with and would expect the media and others to have access to, so we have an administrative process that is seemingly unnecessary.

Certainly, most jurisdictions have moved to make tabled documents more freely available. We did give this some consideration in the administration and procedure committee, and the amendment that we have settled on provides for the automatic authorisation of publication of the types of documents which are routinely tabled in the Assembly and are unlikely to contain actionable material.

It does remain possible for the Assembly to deny publication of a particular document and, similarly, it will be possible for the Assembly to allow for the publication of a document that does not fall on this list if it so wishes. The view of the administration and procedure committee was that we wanted to draw this distinction between documents and that the options remained open to the Assembly.

As I have perhaps implied, both of these amendments have had quite some discussion in the administration and procedure committee and come forward with unanimous support to the Assembly today.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12.22): The government will be supporting this proposal today. I note that the matter has been the subject of some detailed discussion amongst members. The government, having considered the matter, believes that this is a workable proposal and one that strikes, on the face of it, a reasonable balance between the need for the Assembly to be aware of what is in a document prior to its being granted that absolute privilege that authorisation for publication provides and the need to make sure that documents are available in a timely way and with that protection where they are routine and where there would be an expectation that they would be made public in any event.

The types of documents that are identified in the list in the amendment to the standing orders is a reasonable list. The government will have regard to the operation of this new order and will reserve the right, if there are issues that emerge, to come back to the Assembly and raise those concerns. But, on the face of it, this would appear to be a sensible and workable mechanism that ensures that, at least in relation to the item dealing with authorisation for publication, the types of documents that you would expect to be made public will be made public automatically with the full privilege of this place. I think that is certainly of benefit for the better promotion and publication of what goes on in this place and the information provided to it.

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