Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3490 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
I have not seen it before. That, coming from Ms Tucker, is quite extraordinary. Ms Tucker is always saying that we do not consult with her; that we do not talk about things. I knew absolutely nothing about this motion, and I am vitally interested in immunisation and have been for some time.
Mr Osborne made some interesting points. I heard Ms Tucker interject, "The censor". I have been involved in censorship, too, as chair of the Select Committee on HIV, Illegal Drugs and Prostitution. Perhaps Mr Wood will remember that a number of sex workers approached that committee and said they were prepared to make a submission but they did not want it published, and we refused to publish a number of the submissions to that committee.
I think there are some interesting ideas and it is appropriate for us to have a discussion and see whether we ought to have an inquiry on immunisation. But this motion has come at us out of the blue without any consultation on what the Standing Committee on Health and Community Care is interested in, whether it wants to do a further inquiry into immunisation or whether such an inquiry would be useful in enhancing immunisation around the country. I agree with Ms Tucker that we ought not to suppress information on some child who has suffered badly through immunisation. However, I do not see the need for a rush to release these papers. Let us have a proper discussion. Let Mr Humphries adjourn the debate and by the next meeting of the Assembly we will have had a sensible time to think about it.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.09): I am truly stunned that the Assembly would consider not releasing to the public submissions made by the public to a committee inquiry that did not continue. It is amazingly ironic to me, Mr Osborne, having regard to the work that I know you are doing in relation to the redrafting of the Freedom of Information Act, that you would be involved in restricting access by the public to information.
This is not a particularly dramatic motion. It authorises the Clerk to make the unpublished submissions to the former Standing Committee on Legal Affairs available for another committee so that that committee might, in accordance with the standing orders, release those submissions that it believes appropriate to release. We are doing all the things that one would expect to be done in relation to submissions so that those that might be offensive or in relation to which there are otherwise good reasons for not releasing them are not released. It is absolutely staggering that members of the Assembly should consider this sort of censorship of submissions made publicly to a committee. I cannot conceive of a single reasonable argument for restricting access to submissions made to a committee some time ago.
Mr Moore said that we need time and that we should not rush into this. These submissions have been around for ages. It is an absolute nonsense that we should actively consider censoring submissions made to committees. It is just staggering that members could contemplate not releasing this sort of information to the people of the ACT. The Minister for Health is opposing the release and dissemination of the information in relation to the immunisation of children. The Minister for Health for the ACT does not want public submissions on immunisation to be made available to the people of the ACT so that they might better engage - - -