Page 1657 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 May 2013

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I think we have done a lot. We have done it through legislative change; we have done it through the way we work. We will continue to do it. I look forward to Mr Seselja progressing his open government agenda through the federal parliament should he be lucky enough to get there in September.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.15): It is, of course, very easy to stand and say yes, the government should be open and accountable to the governed; it is a truism and, I think, the central plank of any basic democracy. In the case of Egan v Willis, Justices Gaudron, Gummow and Hayne, citing the Queensland Electoral and Administrative Review Commission’s report on the review of parliamentary committees, said that to secure accountability of government activity is the very essence of responsible government.

The Greens unequivocally agree that openness and accountability are paramount to good government. We strongly believe that it is the job of both the parliament and the judiciary to ensure that the government is making good decisions and that they are made according to law. The ACT Greens’ governance policy published on our website says that a healthy democracy requires frank, transparent and accountable practices in all aspects of government. Ever since there have been Greens in this place we have been actively putting up ideas to improve government accountability.

Making governments accountable for their actions is much more than jumping up and down about something you do not like in the chamber or the media. That is of course important, but there is much more that we can do to make governments truly open and accountable. In Hot Holdings Pty Ltd v Creasy, Justice Kirby said:

According to Professor Paul Finn (as Finn J then was), the accountability of public officers may take three forms. One form is accountability to official superiors and peers. This is the preferred, but most diluted, method of accountability favoured in Westminster systems. Another is accountability to agencies such as the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman and to Parliament. These agencies act, or should act, for and on behalf of the public. The final form of accountability is to members of the public directly, either as individuals (as through administrative law mechanisms) or as a community (as through elections).

The Greens have advocated a range of mechanisms that improve each of these different mechanisms and, where necessary, interlink them to ensure that we have a comprehensive accountability framework in place. In the last Assembly, the Greens achieved a great amount to improve accountability through the parliamentary agreement. That work is continued in the parliamentary agreement for this Assembly.

Addressing the first element of accountability referred to by Professor Finn, the previous parliamentary agreement delivered significant reforms to the Public Interest Disclosure Act. We now have what is widely accepted as one of the best public interest disclosure schemes in the world. It is a system that fairly balances the mechanisms for the internal resolution of issues as well as the options for escalating the issue where the circumstances warrant that.

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