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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2313 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

a response from the government. We are not dealing with it in the way that I hope the Territory Records Bill was crafted and developed. I hope that the public service, in developing the Territory Records Bill, did its homework, took advice seriously from a whole range of experts in the field, did some comparative work on the legislation of jurisdictions round Australia and developed and delivered to us a comprehensive piece of legislation for dealing with the management, storage and release of records.

I regret that we are not going to have that opportunity. It is too late for that now. I am simply indicating that I think the Chief Minister raised some very important points that, in the context of this debate, we are now glossing over and we do not have the opportunity of having a significant debate or discussion about what is in the best interests of the people of Canberra or of this parliament in terms of the way that this parliament runs.

I will conclude on this point: the Labor Party is on the record as saying that it accepts and is prepared to facilitate, to propound or to bring into being a circumstance in which executive or cabinet documents will be available within six years. We would make that decision prospectively. That is the decision we have made and we do not resile from it. But I am more than happy for the first cabinet decision that the next government makes, whether it is Labor or Liberal, to be released six years from the day of that cabinet meeting. I have no difficulty with that. We do not resile from it and we are happy to legislate that into being, but we will not cop this bill today, which just willy-nilly makes all documents retrospectively available.

We simply will not cop that, so we are not going to support these provisions. But, just to put an end to the misrepresentation of Mr Moore's in relation to this issue, his dishonesty on the Labor Party's position in relation to it, we are happy to accept a prospective position and we will be happy to legislate for that. I will be happy to make that the first decision of the first cabinet meeting of the next Labor government, of the Stanhope Labor government, before the end of October. We will be happy to do that. I just want to put an end to the nonsense in relation to Mr Moore's misrepresentation of our position. There is a distinct difference, as the Chief Minister acknowledged in the comments he made about what has gone before and how it is unwise to rush into these things in the way we are.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (12.18): It will be interesting in 2004 or 2007 to see whether we get round to that decision, but I do not think that we can afford to wait until 2004 or 2007; I think we ought to proceed with it now. It is a classic argument of the squirmer to focus on what is not in the bill. It is not about what is not in the bill; it is about what is in the bill and about what it does do. What it does do is it makes government more open and more accountable.

I think the arguments put by Mr Stanhope were quite disingenuous. For example, he said that the Assembly had not got a response to the report from the government. Mr Speaker, I cannot remember a single case where a report of a committee of this Assembly on a non-cabinet bill has had a government response. I cannot think of a single case.

Mr Stanhope: That is a problem that we need to address.

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