Page 623 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 11 February 2009
The government believes these matters should be conclusively resolved by giving them protection. Mrs Dunne’s bill fails to do that, and the government will be opposing those relevant clauses when we come to the detail stage. Again, we do not want to see a situation where the territory is placed in a position, potentially, of ignorance or is not included in communications between the commonwealth and other states and territories because of our inability to provide an appropriate level of confidentiality to some of those communications.
There are some real and serious issues at play here, but I do not think it is in anyone’s interests for the purposes of a reasoned debate for this to be characterised as the government attempting to hide or attempting not to embrace the spirit of a more open FOI regime. What we have attempted to indicate through the bill I introduced in the Assembly late last year is that the government recognises that there is a desire on the part of the community and on the part of the Assembly itself to adopt a more open and more liberal regime when it comes to freedom of information. We have endeavoured to respond to that through the provision of clauses that will remove the potential exercise of conclusive certificates in a broad range of circumstances. But it would be simplistic and unfortunate if this debate were characterised simply as the government trying to backtrack on those options, because that is simply not the case when you look at the detail of the policy issues at play.
Finally, I simply note that this reform is only the first stage of a broader reform, which I think everyone in this Assembly acknowledges needs to occur, through a detailed Assembly inquiry into the operation of freedom of information laws. The government will look forward to discussing that matter in the coming sittings when we discuss issues around the terms of reference for such an Assembly inquiry. We also look forward to subsequently making a submission to it and engaging in that discussion.
It is not simply a case of opening up the freedom of information regime without having regard to the consequences of such decisions. There are a range of matters and debates in play that members should have regard to. I am hopeful that we can proceed in that debate in a reasoned and considered manner, rather than retreat to simplistic assertions about attempts to hide information or refusal to engage in a more open process of government and so on. These matters are more complex and more nuanced than that, and I trust that this debate and future debates will reflect that context.
Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2pm.
Alexander Maconochie Centre
Statement by Chief Minister
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage), by leave: Mr Speaker, I received today a letter from the Leader of the Opposition. By one of