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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1186 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

I will ask the Chief Minister whether she has checked the Royal Commissions Act to ensure that it provides this same set of protections under those circumstances. I have not had time to check the Royal Commissions Act, but when we debated the Inquiries Bill and the Royal Commissions Bill they were very similar. I will ask the Chief Minister whether she has checked that the Royal Commissions Act has the same protections. If not, will she make a commitment to do so and bring a simple amendment like this to the Assembly, should that be necessary?

MS HORODNY (12.22): Mr Speaker, the Greens are fully supportive of measures to increase the public accountability of government and to protect individuals who publicly raise issues of concern that might be embarrassing to the Government or particular sectional interests. We will, therefore, be supporting this Bill. It will correct an anomaly in the Inquiries Act to ensure that inquiry reports can be publicly released, with full immunity, by the Chief Minister before the next sitting of the Assembly. It will ensure that the issues raised by an inquiry and the recommendations made can be put on the public record without delay.

While we support these amendments to the Inquiries Act, I note that there are still some problems with this Act which were identified by the Stein inquiry. At present, people who make written submissions to a board of inquiry do not receive the same level of protection under the Act as witnesses at a hearing of the board. Stein's first two recommendations address this issue. I note that the Government stated in its response to the Stein inquiry that it will make the necessary amendments to the Inquiries Act to implement these recommendations. However, I understand that the Government has held off from acting on these recommendations until the Planning and Environment Committee has reported on the Government's response to Stein. I am sure that there will be bipartisan support for the implementation of these further changes to the Inquiries Act, as I have not heard many objections to these particular recommendations. The Greens therefore urge the Government to introduce these further amendments to the Inquiries Act without delay.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (12.24), in reply: Mr Speaker, I can assure Mr Moore that this Bill was drafted along similar lines to the Royal Commissions Act. I hope that that makes him more confident about the Bill. Thank you very much, members, for your support for this Bill. It does overcome a problem that has existed in the past, as members have said. We found out about it with regard to the Pearce inquiry and then again with the Stein report. I am pleased that very shortly we will have an amendment that makes sense and that will overcome this problem in the future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.25 to 2.30 pm

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