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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2000 ..

Report No 15

MR OSBORNE (10.35): I present the following report:

Justice and Community Safety-Standing Committee-Report No 15-The Executive Documents Release Bill 2000, dated 18 June 2001, together with a copy of the extracts of the minutes of proceedings.

I move:

That the report be noted.

Mr Speaker, the bill was tabled by Mr Moore in March last year. It was referred to the justice committee to add to its inquiry on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 1998. The FOI bill also contains a section of amendments on executive documents, although its approach is rather more ruthless. The committee is yet to finalise its report on the FOI bill. However, it has decided to report on the Executive Documents Release Bill separately.

Mr Moore's bill provides for an annual release of cabinet papers. Exemptions are provided where documents are omitted from release if it is in the public interest or in the interest of privacy to do so. Various submissions highlighted deficiencies in these procedures, most coming from the government's submission. However, Mr Moore has informed the committee that he is preparing a series of amendments to address these.

The committee focused its attention on four main points and made recommendations accordingly. The first was the timeframe before documents are released. The bill stated 10 years. However, three of the four members of the committee believed that six years-Mr Hird wanted 10 years-would be more appropriate, and that is the recommendation.

The second point was the most contentious, that being the matter of retrospectivity. As discovered before in the Assembly, it is always difficult to get agreement on retrospective legislation. The committee proved no exception. We were unable to write a unanimous recommendation on this point, with the majority of the committee believing that retrospectivity should not apply without first seeking the approval of previously elected officials. The committee recommended that this legislation not be retrospective. I disagreed. However, I did not put in a dissenting report. I believe that this bill should be applied immediately. I will allow other members to declare their positions themselves.

On a lesser note, the committee considered matters concerning the process of releasing documents and a review mechanism regarding decisions to exempt documents from being released. The committee learned that Mr Moore was preparing amendments on these points and did not go into great detail in the report, so obviously the Assembly will need to decide the issue of retrospectivity.

I thank members on the committee for their assistance in compiling the report. I thank our secretary, Fiona. The delay in tabling the report was due to the lateness of the government's response, which unfortunately is not unusual. I look forward to the debate.

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