Page 425 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer and Minister for Economic Development) (5.01), in reply: I thank members for their support. This is relatively simple legislation and I think the objective behind it is quite clear.

I just want to address a couple of things that have just been said, though. I do not follow the comment by Dr Foskey that there has been a tendency to give governments unfettered powers. I suspect that this government—the government as opposed to the legislature—and the ACT probably have the least amount of power and freedom, simply because we have enjoyed, or otherwise, minority governments. The majority on the floor have been able to impose, from time to time, accountability controls, most of which I think have a reasonable and sensible basis and most of which, to my recollection, have been exercised responsibly.

When I was on that side of the house, there were a few things that I saw that were a bit silly, like putting together financial statements once a month, which was just an imposition on Treasury to turn out statements that told us absolutely nothing. In fact, I moved from that side of the house to reduce those statements to quarterly, with a commitment from the government at the time that they would be more meaningful. So I do not agree with and do not accept that comment. It is pretty much a throwaway line, but it is probably something this place would need to debate at a future time.

It is worthy of debate that we look at the style of government and look at the amount of responsibility ministers have versus the amount of responsibility administrators have. I would suggest that we really need, in the future, if we are not to expand the size of this place inordinately, to actually give administrators more responsibility rather than less, in order that ministers can reasonably exercise all of the responsibilities that they carry, because I think any fair-minded person—most of the people in here I judge as fair minded—would agree that the workload on all of us, in one way or another in our roles, is fairly horrendous and we ought to look at how we provide good government within the limited size of the Assembly that we have.

There is a concern about the making of regulations—and we do have a circular process. Yes, the minister can make a regulation but it is subject to disallowance within the Assembly. But the government has a majority in the Assembly, so I do not really like your chances of getting a disallowance on most occasions. And it does mean that, like in many other things that occur, the power of public debate will be probably more effective in trying to build somehow a structure that says a government with an elected majority would still have its governing powers restricted. It is not going to happen of course, but I just wanted to make that particular comment.

I want to close by saying that the amendments in this bill will not result in non-sensitive information being withheld from public disclosure. The names of contracting parties, contract amounts, public texts of contracts, including the general scope of work, will still be lodged and accessible to the public on the notifiable contracts register via the BASIS website. It just happens that, in this day and age, everybody has agreed that there is certain information that needs to be held confidential and it is, at the end of the day, the government’s responsibility to administer that confidentiality.

I thank members for their input and I look forward to the wider debate on accountability and whether we need to change that and whether we could return to a previous Assembly

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