Page 1545 - Week 04 - Thursday, 7 April 2011

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Justice and Community Safety—Standing Committee

Report 5

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.51): I present the following paper:

Justice and Community Safety—Standing Committee—Report 5—The Freedom of Information Act 1989, dated 4 April 2011, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.

I move:

That the report be noted.

I am very proud today to present to the Assembly the committee’s report on the inquiry into the Freedom of Information Act. The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety has deliberated on this for some time and, in tabling this today, makes recommendations to the ACT Legislative Assembly that, in sum, recommend a complete redrafting of the freedom of information laws in the ACT.

These recommendations need to be looked at in the context of a wide-ranging commitment to openness in the matter of access to information. As I have spoken about a couple of times in the last couple of days, there has been a longstanding verbal commitment by the Stanhope government to openness and reform of freedom of information. Mr Stanhope, when he was the Leader of the Opposition in 2001, promised reform to the Freedom of Information Act. We have seen precious little of it under Mr Stanhope. When Mr Stanhope was the attorney we saw none. When Mr Corbell became the attorney we saw some changes to the rules in relation to conclusive certificates that made it easier to issue conclusive certificates, although the minister said that it would make it more difficult to do so.

The only reforms that have been substantial are those which were foreshadowed by the Canberra Liberals in the previous Assembly and eventually brought about in this Assembly, with the abolition of most of the conclusive certificates in the current freedom of information legislation. At the same time, the attorney made some other amendments which were opposed by the Canberra Liberals in relation to cabinet notebooks.

This is the complex nature of the history of freedom of information. In December 2008, there was general agreement that the whole range of freedom of information laws should be submitted for inquiry and report and this, today, is the result of that work.

The major recommendation of this report can be summarised fairly simply, in that the recommendation is that the ACT adopt the current commonwealth model for the operation of freedom of information. There are some good reasons for doing this. There are other paths that we could have gone down but the ACT and commonwealth freedom of information laws have traditionally been very closely linked and are very closely mirrored, one with the other. This means, of course, that we have shared

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