Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2625 ..
As I have stressed to members previously, my intent is not to withhold information from members, nor to disrupt members in going about their business as elected representatives. My intent, as the responsible minister for the Gungahlin Development Authority, is to ensure that the interests of the authority are not compromised by the release of the legal opinion to third parties which may then use it to their advantage and against the interests of the authority and the territory.
Mr Speaker, my amendment provides for the legal advice not to be published or copied, unless the terms of this resolution are altered. Where any member believes that my claim of confidentiality is not accurate and puts such a request in writing to the clerk, the clerk will release the document to an independent legal arbiter for evaluation and report within five days and that legal arbiter is to be appointed by you, Mr Speaker. If the legal arbiter decides or recommends that the report is not of such a nature that it requires further protection, members will be entitled to take steps in this place to alter the resolution. Equally, if the arbiter decides that it is confidential, that issue can also be discussed further in this place.
I would like to think that this amendment addresses the concerns that members have raised. It puts the matter firmly and entirely in the hands of the Assembly. It does not rely on members having to seek or sign some sort of waiver or confidentiality agreement and follows the approach adopted by the New South Wales upper house in similar circumstances. I commend the amendment to the Assembly.
MRS DUNNE(8.03): I am grateful that the minister has consented to withdraw his previous amendment, which was entirely inappropriate and just another plank in the current Labor Party platform of putting the executive above this Assembly. I am glad that he has agreed to rip that up and throw it away.
Mr Speaker, what this minister is proposing that we do here is a fairly radical departure for this place and I would think, on the basis of the discussion we had before the dinner break, that a proposal such as this as a general course of action might be a matter that would be reasonably referred to the Administration and Procedure Committee to set up in the context, not of a particular document, but of the need to release documents in a particular way from time to time and that we should have a procedure for doing so. My first instinct is still to ask: what is this government afraid of? What is this minister hiding that we have spent-
Mr Corbell: I'm not hiding anything.
MRS DUNNE: The minister says that he is not hiding anything, but the evidence is that we have spent two hours or so debating the means by which this minister can constrain members, once they have seen a document, from acting upon what may or may not be in there. I said at the outset of this debate at about 11 o'clock this morning that if I see the documents and I think that they are free and clear, I will be the first to admit that they are free and clear, but this minister has spent a lot of time in this place saying that there is a multitude of reasons why he should protect the GDA. It is the role of a minister to protect his agency. That is a reasonable thing for him to do.
Mr Corbell: No, to protect the public interest.