Page 2120 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (7.30): The Chief Minister’s Department’s appropriation is a serious matter. When we look through the range of issues that the Chief Minister’s Department now spans, I think that we have to take very seriously this appropriation and very seriously the leadership of the Chief Minister in his department.

Dr Foskey dwelt at some length upon freedom of information. She used the somewhat famous cliche—it is a cliche, but it is a good one on this occasion—in relation to freedom of information that a fish rots from the head. I thought to myself, “I wish I had said that.” But I did not. I will not repeat it as my own. I think Dr Foskey has seen the symptoms of what is wrong with the Freedom of Information Act and its administration in the ACT. And it is the cultural aspects of the administration of freedom of information.

Dr Irene Moss, in her assessment of open government that was published in October last year, spent a lot of time talking about the culture in agencies and how politicians had to take a lead and ensure that there was a culture of openness in agencies. As I adverted to yesterday, the Chief Minister is anything but open and does not have a notion of openness when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act.

The misapprehension that he peddles about what the Freedom of Information Act is about has obviously filtered down into departments and we have seen a reluctance to release. Yes, there are a lot of documents that are still subject to the 30-day consultation under section 27, but there are vast numbers of internal working documents which just have blanket section 36 exemptions, without any consideration of whether the release of that would be contrary to the public interest. There is a culture that needs to be addressed in the ACT public service and that leadership of change should come from the Chief Minister.

There are a range of things I want to dwell particularly on. I think a lot of the other areas have been covered already. I want to dwell particularly upon the new output class 1.6, project facilitation. This is a new output class this year. It was designed as a get-the-Chief-Minister-out-of-trouble-over-planning organisation and probably a year or so ago the Stanhope government was in a lot of trouble in relation to planning. The Chief Minister made a couple of quite strategic decisions which showed that he at that stage was in touch with what was going on and that he was capable of analysing where the government was failing in doing something about it.

A combination of things—taking control of the land allocation portfolio, which we will address later in the budget, changing the planning minister and creating the project facilitation unit in his department—were seen as decisive moves to fix up the planning system in the ACT, which had been bogged down under the previous minister, and to put a bit of free enterprise notion into the notions of land allocation and land supply policy. On the surface, that seemed like a good move. But when we actually look at the fruits of project facilitation organisation, the most obvious one being the site selection process for the gas-fired power station and data centre that was proposed in Tuggeranong, we see that it is an organisation that has not got off to a very good start.

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