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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2003 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

This is a major change to the cabinet-in-confidence provisions. That is why we need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of trying to undo so-called secrecy which has occurred in past years. I have no difficulty with the basic provisions. I have not had much time to read the report, but on the face of it it looks pretty good to me.

MR HARGREAVES (10.50): I would like to bring an different perspective to the debate and speak from the perspective of a middle-management public servant involved in the process. I have no difficulty about exposing cabinet decisions to scrutiny. But, as we mentioned in committee discussions, elected representatives are not the only people affected. Nor are departmental secretaries the only people affected.

We need to be cautious about trolling for FOIs, fishing expeditions and the like. When that happens, all sorts of people get caught up in the net. Public servants give frank and fearless advice to their departmental secretary. I can recall doing just that as a member of the public service.

In fact, Mr Speaker, as my eyes wander across the chamber, I notice that nobody in the Assembly at the moment has any specific public service experience, with the possible exception of Mr Stefaniak, who was a police prosecutor.

Mr Humphries: Excuse me.

MR HARGREAVES: And Mr Humphries, of course. Correct me if I am wrong. Mr Humphries was elected in 1989. So his experience would have been Commonwealth public service experience, and of not too long a duration. My experience in the public service, from a junior through to middle ranks and occasionally knocking on the glass ceiling of the senior executive service, comprised 29 years. I saw it in all of its facets. The opportunity to provide frank and fearless advice does not come around that often.

Various governments in the ACT are regarded in various ways by their servants. I can recall when Mr Humphries was the minister for health and giving him the respect and service that he was due. I did exactly the same thing for Mr Berry. I gave frank and fearless advice on a number of occasions when I was acting as director of the rehabilitation and aged care service. It was on occasions against my better judgment from an ideological perspective. Nonetheless, government policy of the day was X, and I delivered the advice on X.

But it was with some fear, because my party affiliation was well known. I carried it on my sleeve and made no apology for it. My career was impeded on occasion for varying reasons. Not all is imparted to the people whose career is impeded, so naturally your paranoia runs riot and you suspect political interference.

I come back to the current subject. It is not impossible that somebody might want to troll through cabinet documents to find out what involvement I had as a middle-level public servant five or six years ago, to see whether or not what I say now contradicts advice I gave the government of the day. Whilst personally I do not care if they do, I would not like to think that people acting as middle-level public servants at the moment, compiling support documents for cabinet submissions, were thinking, "Oh dear, what happens if I want to give the Assembly a run in four or five years time." That would affect the quality of their advice.

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