Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 November 2010) . . Page.. 5528 ..
the Chief Minister alluded to this in his letter to the chair. If the level of information is expected from departments within a five-day turnaround period then it may well be unrealistic. And it is not surprising, particularly when the same question was asked of every ACT government agency, that it was not possible to provide that information within that time frame.
I do note, of course, that elements of the question that Mr Seselja asked are reported on annually in annual reports. Again, this comes to a question, I suppose, of what level of expectation members have of ministers’ offices in terms of: if we answer a question and that information is available in the annual report; are we expected to identify where within the annual report? Do we need to reproduce a table from within an annual report? These are, of course, interesting debating points. But in the end, most of the information that the member sought has been reported in annual reports, anyway, or responded to in my answers to the same question across a range of portfolios.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Mr Seselja?
MR SESELJA: Minister, could you advise the Assembly as to why you consider a one-line non-answer being of more quality and usefulness than the thousand-word answer already prepared by the department?
MR BARR: Obviously, it is up to ministers to determine how questions on notice are answered. I said I have looked at the material that was provided. For the bulk of the questions, it was clear that the information was not collected or not available in that format. Whether you respond with exactly the same sentence 20 times or say it once, again, is a matter of conjecture, I suppose, within this place. It is interesting that the Leader of the Opposition appears fixated on this matter but the information that the member sought is, of course, available and reported on in annual reports each year.
MR SMYTH: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, how many other questions have been answered by your department only to have you decide that the answer should not be published?
MR BARR: Ultimately, ministers answer questions to questions on notice. I do that in accordance with the requirements of the standing orders.
MR SMYTH: A supplementary, thank you, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, can you provide any evidence that supports your claims that the answer was deleted for the reasons that you have given?
Mr Barr: Sorry; I missed the last part of your—