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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2306 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

a decision is finally made to release these earlier documents. I do not think we should have to wait this long.

I understand that Mr Moore has sufficient support for his amendments to get them passed. I am prepared to support the amended bill as this scheme is better than having no access at all to these documents. However, I have some reservations about how the exemptions from releasing documents are linked to the FOI Act because I think that those exemptions can be very broad.

In summary, under the FOI Act a document is an exempt document if its disclosure could damage relations between the territory and the commonwealth or other states and the Northern Territory; disclose opinions, advice or recommendations made in the course of decision-making within a department or ministry; affect the enforcement of the law or public safety; affect the financial or property interests of the territory; prejudice the effectiveness of the operations, procedures or examinations conducted by an agency; be subject to legal professional privilege; disclose information of commercial value or information about the business affairs of a person or organisation; and have an adverse effect on the ability of the territory to manage the economy or the conduct of business.

As members can see, these categories are very broad, and I am concerned that they could be used to restrict the release of many cabinet documents and lead to many appeals. This could generally discourage people from accessing these documents, which defeats the whole purpose of the legislation.

I understand that the Justice and Community Safety Committee is currently looking at amendments to the FOI Act, so I look forward to seeing this report as I believe that there is a definite need to review this part of the act to ensure that we are not unnecessarily restricting access to government documents.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (11.55), in reply: Mr Speaker, first I want to thank two groups, the members who voted against the adjournment and the attempt to gag the debate on this matter today.

I would like to say a particular thank you to Ms Tucker and her office for recognising an anomaly in the amendments that I circulated on Tuesday where we had a circular effect with the FOI Act. The revised documents include the words "other than section 35 (Executive documents)". That was drawn to my attention and that is why the documents have been revised. We appreciate the effort made by Ms Tucker and her office with regard to that.

Mr Speaker, it has been very interesting to listen to the fallacious arguments put this morning, particularly by Labor, with regard to why we ought not proceed with this bill. There were a series of them. The first one is that I suddenly rushed out of the cabinet and did something entirely different; that it is terrible that I sit in a cabinet in the unusual way that I do, and we should not do this. We all recognise that that is a furphy.

First of all, in terms of timing, the Executive Documents Release Bill has been tabled for quite some time. The second part of the furphy is that Mr Stanhope and Mr Berry argued that the bill tabled today, the Territory Records Bill, is inconsistent. The first indication we had was from Mr Berry, who drew attention to proposed section 25 in part 3, "Access

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