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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1875 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

The Territory Records Bill 2001 was tabled by Mr Smyth in June last year. However, owing to time constraints towards the end of the parliamentary term, debate on the bill was not finalised. Mr Wood referred to this previous bill in his speech introducing the one that is before us today. He compared the merits of the two bills and said:

The legislation introduced but never debated by the Humphries government is not likely to have earned the public's confidence that this government was serious about the management of its records. The legislation that I am introducing today is designed to give confidence to our community that government records will be created, managed, and accessible. This is a key component for open and accountable government.

When I heard this, I was disappointed to learn that Mr Smyth's bill was so bad by comparison. Then I put the two bills side by side and went through them in detail, and guess what, Mr Speaker? The bills are virtually identical, almost word for word, and the two explanatory memoranda are even more so. There are a few minor differences that are simply rewordings or renumberings of the contents of a clause. Some changes place more of a spotlight on certain provisions than does Mr Smyth's former bill, but the changes were not significant enough to rate a mention in the new explanatory memorandum. They were hardly earth-shattering, Mr Speaker.

Rather than go through each of those minor differences in detail, I wish to draw to the attention of members four more significant differences. The first is in clause 7, which contains the list of agencies that are covered by the bill. Mr Smyth's former bill included territory-owned corporations in the list. Mr Wood's legislation does not. The Greens have an amendment that reflects the position of Mr Smyth's former bill, and I indicate to the Assembly that the opposition will support that amendment.

The second point of difference is contained in clause 18. This clause contains a provision for the approval of the standards and codes for agency records management. Mr Smyth's former bill provided for the relevant minister to give approval of the regime. Mr Wood's bill gives responsibility for that approval to the Director of Territory Records. The reason provided to my office for this difference was that the change provided for more of an arms-length process. That is fair enough. We agree with that. However, it does make the next point of difference in the bill rather difficult to understand.

Clause 39, the first clause the opposition will oppose, provides for ministerial directions to the Director of Territory Records. I am somewhat mystified that the government would go to great lengths to set up an arms-length process, a process intended to increase public confidence and to ensure open and accountable government, and then provide for the government of the day to interfere. What a charade. This clause will surely not instil confidence in the community.

I want to dwell on this point of process for a moment, and appeal again to Ms Dundas and Ms Tucker for their support. Perhaps they may yet be persuaded, Mr Speaker. While I agree that clause 39 does contain a transparent process, in that the minister would be required to table in the Assembly a copy of any direction given to the Director of Territory Records, the opposition maintains that this arms-length process would be polluted by allowing a minister to meddle. I ask Ms Tucker and Ms Dundas to carefully consider this point.

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