Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1789 ..
MS TUCKER: I am just saying that I think there is some value to this legislation in having a standalone Access to Government Contracts Act. However, the government does propose in this bill a specific exemption for the University of Canberra. It does so by exempting the University of Canberra from the definition of a territory entity at clause 3.
This is a controversial question not only in terms of this act, but also in terms of the operation of other ACT legislation, notably the whistleblower legislation. The Auditor-General is currently conducting an inquiry into a matter relating to that legislation. The Auditor-General and the University of Canberra hold different opinions on this point. The government, by including this specific exemption, takes the view of the university.
In a related bill of Ms Dundas', the university would be specifically included. The university, and I suppose the government, argue that as the ACT government does not provide funding to the university and that the government appoints only 10 of the 22 members of the board it should not be regarded as a territory board. To the Auditor-General, however, the power to appoint such a high proportion of board members, even though it is not an absolute majority, represents a near controlling interest.
I have argued that the university's operations should be covered by the legislation applying to territory entities in the case of the whistleblower legislation. The university occupies a particular role as a public body and should be of high standing. The government also argues that were the University of Canberra College to be included in this act the disclosure requirements would add unduly to the administrative burden, thus increasing costs, that there would be issues of intellectual property to be resolved, and that this is an issue that needs to be resolved at some point. I do not agree with the specific exemption in this bill and I am not prepared to support it.
MR STEFANIAK (8.42): I understand that my colleague Mr Smyth has talked to the crossbenchers on this matter. In terms of the coverage of ACT entities, I note that there is a lack of clarity about the extent to which the legislation applies to the range of ACT entities that exist. There is a definition of territory entity in this bill and it does differ from the definition of territory entity that already exists in the Government Procurement Act. The situation is highlighted by the continuing issue of whether the University of Canberra should be subject to this legislation.
It is our suggestion that further consideration of this aspect does need to be undertaken. I am advised that the Auditor-General is preparing a report on this issue. On that basis, at this stage we are prepared to enable this part of the bill to remain in there, but I do note that the Auditor-General is looking at this matter. The situation does need further consideration. I think that it is very important that that occur.
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (8.43): I have to agree with Mr Stefaniak. If there is an open question, we would certainly want to resolve it. But when the logic put forward by Ms Dundas indicates that there is not a controlling interest and there is little or no funding coming from the ACT, I think that it would be bad to legislate to incorporate the University of Canberra under this bill until we resolve that.