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

MR KAINE (10.38): The chair of the committee has indicated that he supports the notion of retrospectivity in connection with this report. I was a bit on the fence on the matter. While former politicians can perhaps accept the responsibility that sooner or later the decisions they make might be made public, there is more to it than this.

Cabinet makes decisions based on submissions put to them in the main by public servants. Senior public servants in good faith put submissions to cabinet on the understanding that their documents will remain confidential and that at some future time they will not be held accountable for the advice they gave to the cabinet.

It is not the former politicians I would seek to protect, but rather senior public servants-former heads of the ACT administration, heads of divisions of the old administration and the like-who 10 years ago or six years ago, in good faith, put submissions to the cabinet on the understanding at the time that those documents would remain confidential. To break faith with them on such an issue and perhaps expose them to public criticism for something that they did six or 10 years ago would be unfair.

For that reason I have supported the retrospectivity recommendation. It is something that we as members of this Assembly have to pay due regard to.

MR HIRD (10.40): I draw members' attention to paragraph 4.9 of the report. I was unsuccessful in my strong argument that there should be a 10-year period rather than a six-year period. I argued that in similar jurisdictions in other parts of Australia the period can be up to 50 years for a notebook of a cabinet minister. Yet in an extraordinary move in this place it is proposed to introduce a six-year timeframe. I believe that 10 years would have been more appropriate.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (10.42): I thank the committee for taking on this piece of legislation and taking it seriously. Quite clearly, they have considered the issues with a great deal of care. As Mr Osborne said, I indicated to the committee that I was prepared to move a number of amendments that are consistent with the report of the committee. We will now go to the process of looking at the amendments and making sure they are consistent with the committee's report. We will then introduce them.

There is one exception. That is with the regard to retrospectivity or prospectivity. Mr Kaine put an argument. I think there is some weight in it. However, it is very similar to the argument that is always put when people are looking to do the opposite of opening up government and government processes. Whilst I think the argument carries some weight, I would disagree with it. It is appropriate that this legislation be retrospective and that we make it very clear that all of us are prepared to be open in our dealings.

I have looked back over the cabinets I have been involved in, and I presume Mr Berry and others have done the same. Whilst some things are time critical, timeframes are not that important. I originally went for 10 years because I thought that that was a sensible timeframe to work around. Mr Stanhope said publicly that he thought six years was appropriate, although I recognise that he did say "prospective". I considered that and thought it was the right way to go.

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