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Inquiry into Access to Cabinet and Other Deliberative Documents

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the Assembly, pursuant to standing order 246A, that on 28 August 1995 the Standing Committee on Public Accounts resolved to inquire into and report on the access to Cabinet and other deliberative documents of a previous government. This issue, members may recall, arose following the production by a Government Minister, Mr Humphries, of documents which were clearly documents of the previous Government. To refresh members’ memories, one set of documents related to Gungahlin and to the construction of a government office building at Gungahlin. That was quite clearly a deliberative document. There was another set of documents relating to nursing home beds that was nothing more than an advice to me. It is my opinion that on both occasions those documents were misused, and for that reason the Public Accounts Committee has sought to follow up on the issue.

The Public Accounts Committee advised Mrs Carnell of our intention to take on this reference, and I inform the Assembly that Mrs Carnell has written back to me, as chair of the PAC, saying that she believes that this reference is beyond the PAC’s charter. I would remind members that the Public Accounts Committee's terms of reference include, at (d):

inquire into and report on the implementation of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 with particular reference to:

(i) the public interest; and

(ii) any other related matter.

It seems to me that the conduct of public servants and others, following a change of government, is most certainly a related matter. Nevertheless, I should say that, as the PAC adopted this reference unanimously and is concerned about the issue and has done some work on the issue, we will be considering the content of Mrs Carnell's letter and discussing the issue further. In the meantime, Mrs Carnell has arranged for the Public Accounts Committee to meet with Mr Walker, the Head of Administration, to discuss the issue. I advise that we have taken on the reference and we will be considering our position on this matter further.

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