Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2303 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
When the contract to host the race was signed in December 1999, it was projected that it would cost $17 million over five years. Since that time, the costs have increased to $23 million over five years. Last year the race had an operating loss of $1.45 million. Ticket sales for 2001 were down on 2000 sales, and it is projected that ticket sales for this year may be further down.
The event lost its sponsor last year, which raised concerns about the viability of the race and led to queries about the nature of the contract to host the event, especially regarding the costs and obligations on the ACT government.
It seems reasonable, therefore, that before this debate goes further and becomes bogged down in inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims members of the Assembly and the people of Canberra be able to see the terms under which Canberra hosts the race and the extent of the ongoing financial support the ACT government gives to the race.
One of the reasons the contract has remained such a mystery is that commercial-in-confidence clauses have been used to prevent the tabling of contracts. I fully understand the use of commercial-in-confidence clauses where there is a real interest to be protected. Such clauses inspire confidence in businesses when they deal with government that sensitive information will be protected. However, such clauses should not inhibit public scrutiny of government transactions.
This Assembly passed the Public Access to Government Contracts Act in 2000. Although this was after the date of the contract between CTEC and AVESCO, the principle should still apply. That principle is one that, while recognising the importance of businesses being able to protect commercially sensitive information, promotes accountability and transparency in government business, especially when that business concerns taxpayer dollars. As such, commercial-in-confidence clauses should not be used to prevent us from seeing how public money is spent, unless such information is truly sensitive. I cannot imagine that the entire contract with AVESCO is commercially sensitive and, as such, those parts of the contract that are not should be made public.
The contract to host the Canberra 400 V8 supercar race was negotiated and executed by the Liberal government, and now this Labor government has inherited it and is responsible for addressing the situation. A great deal of public money is going into an event hosted over a weekend and now generating debate about whether it is worth the expenditure or whether the money could be better utilised elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the contract that created the commitment in the first place is not on the public books. The way to fix this situation is to table that information and subject the contract to some scrutiny. I am not suggesting that we should be in the habit of disregarding commercial-in-confidence clauses, but for those clauses that are ill considered or overly broad we should not be prevented from seeing how public money is spent.
The Canberra 400 V8 supercar race occurs in my electorate, and I am keen that my constituents-be they for the race, against it or ambivalent about it-have access to the terms under which the race is hosted and funded. The Labor government campaigned on a platform of open and accountable government, and in the interests of those important and democratic principles I ask members to support this motion.