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Mr Speaker, what I plan to do today is to talk about the main objectives of the Bill - improved news reporting, accountability and the public interest, and improved standards for MLAs. If members had in front of them the matter of public importance debate from 8 November last year, they would realise that that is effectively a repeat of what was said in that debate, in which I raised the issue of broadcasting the ACT Assembly proceedings as a matter of public importance. The issue was raised and clearly on the agenda then, and we had even begun to seek to have a piece of legislation drafted along these lines.
I should say at this point, Mr Speaker, that I was aware that the former Speaker, Ms McRae, also had done quite a deal of work on the notion of broadcasting Assembly proceedings. When I actually gave my drafting instructions and when I consulted with the Assembly staff, people had already thought a great deal about the issue. I think it is appropriate to pay credit to the work that the previous Speaker and her staff did on this issue. That is one of the reasons why this Bill was able to be drafted relatively quickly.
Mr Speaker, I would also like to draw attention to the fact that when that matter of public importance debate was conducted in the Assembly in November last year Ms Follett began her speech by saying:
I congratulate Mr Moore on having raised this issue. I think it is high time indeed that the Assembly did address the matter of the broadcasting of our proceedings. In principle, the Government -
that is the previous Government -
supports the broadcasting of Assembly proceedings, as I am sure all members would, and we will all have our reasons for doing so.
Similarly, a little later, the spokesman for the Liberals, Mr Humphries, said:
Madam Speaker, on behalf of my party I also indicate that we see advantages in there being a process for the broadcasting or telecasting of proceedings of this Assembly.
He went on to fill in the reasons for that. Mr Speaker, I think there is widespread support for the objectives of such a Bill. I have already mentioned improved news reporting. I believe that there will be a chance for improved news reporting. If the actual words that somebody used in a speech were reported verbatim with the voice of the person saying them, an inaccuracy or a slight change in nuance would be much less likely than when we walk outside and talk to the media. I know that it would hardly ever be the case that any member here would be responsible for changing the nuance of something or presenting things in a slightly better way or having somebody else present their response in a different way. Clearly, direct reporting from the Assembly will avoid that sort of problem. More important, though, Mr Speaker, is the whole notion of accountability and the public interest. It is the same argument as applies to whether people should have access to the Assembly or not, and what sort of access they should have.