Page 2488 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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annual performance audit program, provision of new powers for the audit of non-government entities in receipt of government funding subject to the important prerequisites in place, and providing a broader approach to performance audits by the Auditor-General through a wider concept of strategic review and a fixed time frame in each parliamentary term for the conduct of such reviews. This aligns existing provisions with new roles that the Speaker will have in relation to the officers of the parliament. Finally, there will be independent auditors or reviewers who will require suitable qualification.

The government is a strong advocate for the key role the Auditor-General plays in maintaining accountability and confidence in the territory’s public administration. This bill supports those areas, and I commend the bill to the Assembly and thank members for their support.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.16), by leave: I move amendments Nos 1 and 2 circulated in my name together [see schedule 1 at page 2569]. These are relatively minor but nevertheless important amendments to clarify an existing provision of the act. Under the current provision there could be some argument about whether the Auditor-General has a discretion to determine the public interest when one of the listed factors is present. Amendment No 1 both updates the language used and clarifies that the Auditor-General has the discretion about whether or not to include the information in a report. Even if publishing the information would involve the disclosure of a trade secret, for example, it may still be in the public interest to release the information, and the discretion is given to the Auditor-General to determine where the overall public interest lies and if, indeed, it is contrary to the public interest to release the particular information.

The current clause does not recognise the balancing exercise that must take place when competing public interests are involved. The amendment recognises this challenge and ensures the Auditor-General has the ability to balance what will inevitably be, at times, competing public interests. The amendment does not pretend to canvass all the possible circumstances that may arise; however, it limits the circumstances in which it may be contrary to the public interest to publish information. Much like the current act limits the circumstances in which it is contrary to the public interest to release certain information, the amendment adopts a similar formulation, but using contemporary and clearer language.

In effect, when one of the listed factors—for example, where information could reasonably be expected to prejudice relations between the ACT government and another government—is present, the Auditor-General will be required to balance this adverse outcome with any other public interest that may be advanced by the

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