Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1879 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Territory Records will be created, to provide a consistent, independent and professional approach to the implementation of record-keeping standards across government.
This bill is also linked to the Freedom of Information Act, so that government records will generally be freely available for public access after 20 years. Some confidential documents will remain exempt from such access, but the public may still attempt to view these documents under FOI.
I think this bill is a great initiative. Good record keeping in association with FOI laws is an essential part of keeping the government accountable to the public for its activities. As we know, the disappearance of records is a convenient way for governments of whatever persuasion to avoid having to explain how decisions were made.
I note that some significant changes have been made to this bill in response to comments made by the Australian Society of Archivists at the time the Liberals' previous bill was before the Assembly. These relate to giving the Director of Territory Records a decision-making role in setting records management standards for agencies, and in establishing the Territory Records Advisory Council.
I agree that the Director of Territory Records should have a central role in the management of records. It is essential that the records management standards of particular agencies are above reproach, and are consistent across government. I think that these standards should be set by an independent person, rather than by the heads of different agencies. There is, however, one change from the Liberal bill that I do not support, and that is the exclusion of territory-owned corporations. I have an amendment to deal with this issue. Overall, though, I am happy to support this bill in principle.
MS DUNDAS (5.42): The Australian Democrats will be supporting this bill. The bill does set up the position of the Director of Territory Records, who is to set standards for the records management of government agencies throughout the territory. This is a very important step to moving to a more open and accountable government and public service. It guides records management and will ensure that records management is of a constantly high standard.
Unless members of the community have the power to access and independently scrutinise government information, there is little prospect of having a genuinely deliberative and participatory democracy. Freedom of information legislation opens the government's activity to scrutiny, discussion, comment and review and, again, promotes a robust democracy.
We support the fact that this bill allows for the director to independently oversee the administration of territory records. We will not be supporting the opposition's amendments, as we believe it is reasonable that the director be connected with both the minister and, through the minister, the Assembly, and with the community through the advisory council. We will be supporting the Greens' amendments, as the inclusion of the records of territory-owned corporations in territory records is definitely an important step towards ensuring that quality records are kept by these bodies, and that public scrutiny occurs at the same level as that of government.