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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 2809 ..

Cabinet Documents - Confidentiality

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I have a question to answer. On 1 June Ms Follett asked me a question about the tabling of documents that had been provided to her in January of this year concerning the move of the old Department of the Environment, Land and Planning to Gungahlin, or the non-movement, in fact. She asked me who would provide me with information about that matter, or would provide me with the documents. I was under the impression that I had answered that question subsequently, but in the report of the Public Accounts Committee tabled last month Ms Follett noted that I had not replied to it. I will do so now by tabling a minute I received on 17 October from Mr Townsend.


Debate resumed.

MR CONNOLLY (3.12): The points of principle Ms Follett made this morning, in the Opposition's principal response to this Bill, about the traditional methods of public accountability and the importance of that, as opposed to a sort of cowboy approach to public administration, could hardly have been demonstrated more effectively than in the performance of the Chief Minister and Minister for Health as witnessed in question time.

We say that the traditional method of public sector administration that has existed at least since the Northcote/Trevelyan report in the 1860s in Britain, in the then colonial administrations, in the Australian Public Service and the reforms of the 1970s and the reforms of the 1980s, inherited when this body politic was set up in 1989, firmly establishes that the person responsible is the Minister. The government of the day, accountable to this place, are the persons responsible, and the public servants are there to carry out without fear or favour the wishes of the government of the day. They survive changes of government, changes of administration; their personal political views are irrelevant; their compatibility or otherwise is irrelevant.

They are the principles, which Mr Kaine attacked us for being conservative about and not prepared to change, that we stand for, and we are worried about this sort of cowboy approach to public administration that we see is behind a lot of the thinking in this Bill. Mrs Carnell's performance today demonstrates the risks of this. We have already pointed out that the sign on her desk should be not Harry Truman's "The buck stops here" but "The buck stops there", because it is always somebody else's fault.

I obtained a document, which I tabled, showing plans at Woden Valley Hospital to scrap the mammography service to save a paltry $20,000 or less, as opposed to serious reforms that might affect visiting medical officers. I having tabled page 1, and it shows that it is a working party recommendation, Mrs Carnell gets up and is terribly wounded, saying, "You cannot accuse me of this as Minister for Health. I am just the Minister for Health. This is just a working party. I am not responsible. It is those awful people on the working party. It is their fault".

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