Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1786 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Mr Speaker, there are some concerns about the content of explanatory statements that accompany legislation introduced into the Assembly by the government. The explanatory statement for this bill is a good example. Essentially, it simply provides a brief factual comment on each of the proposed clauses. Nowhere is there an argument in favour of, for example, the government's decision not to include the University of Canberra in the definition of relevant territory entities. On the contrary, there is only a statement that the University of Canberra and the University of Canberra College are excluded from the definition of "territory entity". What is the basis for that decision? There is no elaboration of that in the minister's tabling statement, yet that was one of a number of significant comments that were made by the Auditor-General in his report on these matters.
In conclusion, we do acknowledge that the bill is a further step in the right direction of enhancing the interface between the community and the ACT government and between businesses and the ACT government. Nevertheless, there is some important work that needs to be resolved. We will be keeping an eye on that, but at this stage we will be supporting the bill.
MS DUNDAS (8.29): Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats will be supporting all but one clause of this bill. This bill is the government's second attempt to improve the Public Access to Government Contracts Act, having had numerous problems with its implementation. Members will recall that, during the consideration of the government's first bill, I attempted to strengthen the law to hold account the chief executives of departments. Further, I introduced legislation to address some of the flaws of the original act and also to extend public access to include the public text of tendered documents.
The bill we are debating today takes up some of the ideas I put forward in the Democrats' bill, and I do thank the Treasurer for taking these ideas on board. Key changes worth noting are the combination of the Public Access to Government Contracts Act, the contractual debts act of 1994 and the procurement act into one central act. That will make it easier for both government agencies and the public alike to find out about the procurement guidelines for the ACT.
This bill will make agencies tell the Auditor-General of all contracts containing confidentiality clauses and tightens up the model confidentiality clause. That was seriously lacking in the initial bill, reflecting that at the time this legislation was unique. Following the actions of the Democrats in the Senate, public access to government contracts and the use of model confidentiality clauses apply to all federal government departments, and will now apply to the ACT. This bill also establishes a central website for all government contracts. It will provide a one stop shop for government contracts and, I believe, is a necessary initiative.
There has been some debate over the inclusion or exclusion of the University of Canberra under this legislation. The bill put forward by the Democrats specifically included the University of Canberra, in line with the recommendation of the Auditor-General. This government's bill specifically excludes the university, in line with the wishes of the University of Canberra. From an accountability perspective, the argument essentially is about controlling interest of the university. A territory instrumentality is defined, in part, as a body corporate that: