Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1848 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The almost secret review of Planning and Land Management is also something which really does concern me. In the Estimates Committee, when we sought the terms of reference for this review and some understanding of exactly what was going on, the Minister and his officials were disinclined to tell us anything about it.
I make this next comment genuinely, Minister, as I do all my comments. I would like to touch briefly on the point made by Mr Berry about the difficulty which the Estimates Committee and those of us who were part of that process had in receiving straightforward answers to questions we asked of officials from your department. I contrast it with the comments I was able to make yesterday to Mr Moore in relation to the openness with which officers of the Department of Health dealt with questions from members of that committee. It was a credit, both to the Minister and to the officers of the Department of Health, that there was no hedging.
It pains me always, for some reasons - reasons that I cannot explain and that I will seek to understand better - to compliment the Minister for Health, but he let his officials go. He did not feel the need to constrain them. He did not feel the need to say, "Look, you had better be careful. You had better protect me. You had better not answer this question". I think there is a lesson there for the Department of Urban Services and for all Ministers. They should look at the way in which the Department of Health dealt with the Estimates Committee. The Minister had faith in his officials. The Minister was prepared to allow them to answer straightforward questions, consistent with their duties and responsibilities to this place as public servants to provide factual answers to questions not going to policy, not going to issues on which the Estimates Committee should not quiz members of the Public Service.
I have mentioned this before and I take this most seriously. I think this is a very serious issue for this place. I can refer the Minister for Urban Services to 20 pages of dialogue in the Estimates Committee transcript relating to his department in which four or five members of this Assembly asked Mr Gilmour and Mr Hawkins to answer a simple question, and to this day I still do not know the answer to that question. I think that really is not good enough. I will continue to say that until I get the answer to the question.
Those are the points on which I wished to make some comments. Mr Corbell and Mr Hargreaves have covered a range of other matters. There are issues that I would like to raise in relation to some other areas, such as forests, housing, and ACTION, but I will reserve those.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (9.14): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, much has been raised by members here this evening and I thank them for their input. Unfortunately, none of it was new. There was nothing that we have not heard before. It seems that if we talk about something often enough, it will become so.
The Opposition still seems to be under a lot of misapprehension about registration. Again, for the record - it has been said so many times - only nine per cent of Canberra motorists will pay what could be termed large increases, and that is from $42 to $114 for their registration. All the pensioners get it free, the seniors get the 10 per cent,