Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3777 ..

Ms Carnell: In the committee.

MR STANHOPE: No, publicly. I understood from Mr Osborne that that was his understanding. I said that I would happily support this motion on the basis that there was not a gag. If there is a gag, then I will continue with my application before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and I will obtain the documents that way or in any other way that I can - through a further motion in the Assembly, if need be. But on the basis of Mr Osborne's initial discussion with me and my understanding of what Mr Osborne said, I was happy to support the motion, but as it is now being interpreted and put by the Chief Minister the Labor Party will not support it. This motion neuters the committee in a way that is not acceptable to me.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (6.00): I assume this means Mr Stanhope is opposing this motion.

Mr Stanhope: I am seeking clarification of what it means.

MR HUMPHRIES: I will put on my legal hat and say what I think these words mean. I read the words "publish documents and extracts from them" in the same sense as "publish" in the defamation legislation, meaning the disclosure of that information. I would certainly regard someone going on the radio and reading extracts from the contracts as publication. Putting them in some kind of public arena where others who are not given access to the information in this privileged way can see them would be publication. It might not mean publishing in the sense of putting out a press release, but it certainly would be publication in that wider defamation Act sense.

Mr Speaker, that is the sense in which the documents are put out there. As I understand Mr Osborne's intention, this is meant to be a way of providing access to the information by the committee without destroying the commercially sensitive aspects of the documents by virtue of the information being bandied about in a way which would prejudice the parties who have entered into these contracts. That has always been the Government's concern. We are particularly sensitive to the commercial sensitivity that releasing the documents would entail and to the commercial damage that could be sustained by the parties.

We remain willing to make the documents available on that basis. We are not attempting to avoid parliamentary scrutiny, but there are other parties to these matters. Those parties, I assume, are indicating in the AAT proceedings that they wish this information to be protected without necessarily stopping parliamentary scrutiny of the information. For that reason, as I understand it, this motion refers to the documents being made available to the select committee but with the commercial-in-confidence element in them preserved. That is as the Government understands it.


(6.03): I would like to put in my two-penneth worth. I do not support this motion, because it would be a precedent which would allow the Government to suppress documents under the shield of some sort of commercial-in-confidence label at will. I do not agree that the Government should have that power very often. I believe a committee of the Assembly is entitled to documents, particularly documents such as these which at

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .