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Subsection 4(1) (definition of ‘principal officer’) -
Add at the end the following paragraph:
‘(c) in relation to ACTEW Corporation Limited - the Chief Executive Officer of the Company;’.”.
Mr Speaker, it is without question that the community considers freedom of access to information a fundamental right. This right has not always received the respect from legislators that it has deserved. Freedom of information legislation provides at least a basic level of protection. There are few people who will claim that the Freedom of Information Act has caused those bodies which it covers to be too open to the public. A large range of documents are exempt from coverage by the legislation. Significantly, this includes documents which are commercially sensitive.
Earlier, the Government sought to move an amendment which would limit the already restricted rights under freedom of information in respect of ACTEW. The amendment which the Greens are moving seeks to ensure that community access to information about ACTEW is at least as good as that afforded to it in relation to government entities through the Freedom of Information Act. ACTEW is an organisation which is of enormous importance to the community. Its decisions can affect the health and wellbeing of each and every member of the community. While many of ACTEW's actions become well known, as with all big organisations, it is often difficult to find the reasons why a decision was made. The Bills before us state that ACTEW will have five shareholders. However, those five individuals hold only the proxy votes of the community. Every resident of the ACT is a shareholder; every resident of the ACT has a right of access to information. Freedom of information is about accountability. The Government has frequently used the rhetoric of accountability, openness and consultation. How little we have seen of commitment! This rhetoric is fine, but it must be followed by action.
Like so many other things which are completely missing from the Bills which the Government has presented to us, freedom of information is just too important to leave for enactment through regulations. The amendment we are moving, therefore, will establish the coverage of the Freedom of Information Act in respect of ACTEW in its entirety. This provides a strong statement to the community of the commitment of this Assembly to work for open and transparent processes in the community. The majority of members of this Assembly are not part of the Government, but only the Government has the power to make and change regulations. The community needs to be assured that this Assembly is committed to ensuring that the agencies of the ACT Government are open and accountable. This amendment goes at least part of the way to showing this. Had the Government accepted the proposal to refer the corporatisation of ACTEW to a committee, as we had proposed, this would have been an even stronger signal to the community that the Government was committed to its own rhetoric.