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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3050 ..

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.54): Mr Speaker, I think the Chief Minister and others have explained very clearly why it is that this information will not be useful information to the Assembly. It is really important for members to recognise that in a minority government they have significant rights that are not available to members in other jurisdictions. This Assembly has, by and large, handled those rights very sensibly. But as is always the case, with rights go certain responsibilities - the same responsibility that we make whenever we deal with the budget, whenever we are making budgetary decisions.

Are we spending money in a cost-effective manner? The most important thing - I know Mr Kaine would recognise this and Mr Rugendyke has taken it into account on many occasions - is: Are the decisions cost effective? That is the crunch because it is a very easy argument to say we should just have more information. You can always say we should have more information. But what is becoming very clear is that information often does not add anything or help people understand what is going on.

The Chief Minister has explained very clearly why that is the case. I know Mr Berry misunderstood it. His speech reflected lack of understanding. When this was originally recommended, what was missed was the fact that we were going through a draft budget process that overlaps what is being asked here. The process for a draft budget is much more important than the one here.

We normally make decisions - and the way Mr Kaine has made them from the time he was Chief Minister - is on a cost-benefit analysis. What are the benefits of getting this information and what are the costs? On my table today is some information about the costs of providing information to the Assembly. It is an appropriate cost, by the way. We should meet that and nobody has resiled from it. But with having a right to be able to demand information, as each member here should be able to, goes the responsibility of making sure that, when you are demanding information, it is actually useful information. There is never a situation where any member here asks for something and we do not give it. That is largely true in other areas, with the exception of issues of commercial-in-confidence. Often on a confidential basis we will provide information to members. The question is whether it is time to take a responsible attitude and say we are not just going to keep asking to use up public servants' time to provide unhelpful information - to force that information to come out every time, as opposed to asking for it at a particular time for a particular purpose, which is an entirely different matter.

The hospital is a good example. There was a problem with the hospital and members asked for information about a projection and so forth on the hospital, and it was provided. Nobody has a difficulty with that. Members have to recognise that they get a huge amount of information. It is incumbent on you to ask yourselves how much of it you read and how much of it you use, as opposed to how much of it you file and refer to later, all of which could be done by a question on notice if you want to do it in a formal way. But informally members do it regularly. We are very rapid in our responses to you. We actually get information back to you. On a cost-benefit analysis alone, this legislation should not be supported.

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