Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3024 ..
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (11.58): Mr Deputy Speaker, the government will be opposing the motion. I am sure that comes as no surprise to anyone conversant with or supportive of the Westminster system of government and the Westminster conventions.
This is a cabinet document. Members are well aware that documents prepared for cabinet, under ACT legislation, are embargoed for a minimum period of 10 years. The government will not be tabling this document today. The motion is, as we all know, simply base politics—at its best; it is vexatious at worst—and displays a complete lack of understanding or support for how cabinet government works.
The government, of course, understands members’ interest in the functional review. Dr Foskey underlines that interest with her motion. That the review continues to attract a great deal of interest is not unexpected for such a wide-reaching, timely and necessary review of government services. The motion of today, in the context of an impending election, is essentially an exercise in politics by the Greens as they continue to seek some relevance.
All governments should have the capacity to review their operations and to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of services that they fund and deliver for their communities. This type of review is not new. Responsible governments do these reviews from time to time to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their services, structures and systems to ensure the sustainability of services to the community.
In undertaking these reviews, governments need the capacity to make difficult decisions around resourcing. These decisions need to be made within the confidentiality of cabinet. There is no question that the strategic and functional review was prepared for cabinet consideration and was never intended for public release. At the time that I announced the review—before the review was undertaken—I emphasised that that was precisely its purpose. I have reiterated this position previously on the floor of the Assembly and in correspondence following previous requests by Dr Foskey.
Members are well aware that cabinet confidentiality is a key principle of the Westminster form of government. To provide wider access to this document would undermine that principle and would diminish the ability of this and future governments to operate effectively. The attitude and approach we take in relation to this particular document—which is a cabinet document and always has been a cabinet document—in relation to its confidentiality is the position that has been taken by every single government in this place in relation to the Westminster principle and the need to observe and conserve it, and most particularly the convention as it applies to cabinet, decision-making cabinet government and the confidentiality of cabinet documents. I had these very same discussions with the previous government when I was a member of the opposition. Members are well aware of that fundamental principle of the Westminster form of government.
The functional review’s terms of reference were deliberately wide. They were deliberately wide-ranging—to look deep into the ACT public service and the