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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (29 February) . . Page.. 523 ..

Motion to Table Paper

Debate resumed.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (4.48): I think it is important to restate the position here and the precedent that will be set, but before I do that I think it is important to quote some statements that have been made before in this Assembly. On 25 November 1993 Mr Berry said:

I am saying to you that I am not inclined to table the contract with VITAB because it is a commercial-in-confidence document.

Well, what has changed? On 1 March - - -

Mr Moore: This is not a contract.

Ms Follett: That is what has changed.

MRS CARNELL: It is commercial-in-confidence. He said "a commercial-in-confidence document". He went on to make that comment again and again. I am reluctant to bring up a particular situation in 1990 when Mr Moore, I think, put a document through a shredder rather than table it in this house. I think that people should remember what has happened in the past before we pass this sort of motion. It is certainly true that the amendment makes the motion somewhat more acceptable to the Government because it does get rid of the commercial-in-confidence pieces of that report. I urge members of the Assembly, when they are given an opportunity to have a look at those commercial-in-confidence pieces, to treat them in confidence.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.50): I want to respond, very briefly, to what Mrs Carnell has said. The document which Mr Moore has moved be tabled in the Assembly is not a contract. The document that the Assembly seeks access to is, in fact, a consultant's report commissioned by the Government and paid for by the Canberra taxpayer. I believe that such documents, as a general rule, should be public documents. This is a consultant's report; it is not a contract. I do not think members ought to be swayed in any way by what is a quite fallacious argument by the Chief Minister - yet another one.

Mr Speaker, during the lunchbreak some members, and I was one of them, had the opportunity to peruse very briefly the document in question, which was brought to us by some officers of the Public Service, and I thank them very much for that. The document was confirmed as being a consultant's report, and a quite lengthy one. The document was confirmed as making no adverse comment on any individual, public servant or otherwise. So any questions - all of the scare tactics about defamation and so on - were simply a smokescreen by Mrs Carnell. The document contains a very small amount of information which could be construed as having some confidentiality. That confidentiality relates to the timing of access to that information rather than to the information itself. The information itself, in fact, could well be sought and obtained by the Estimates Committee or in the normal course of budgetary reporting, especially under accrual accounting.

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