Page 4042 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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what he wants to know on some of these matters, because he will actually be able to have a two-way conversation in that forum where some answers will be provided, the nuance can be worked through, there can be a back and forth. And then also obviously, out of those annual report hearings, if the matters are not addressed adequately, there is a capacity for questions on notice. My view is that, rather than supporting his motion today, that is a better way at this time to take up these questions. Then matters that arise from the answers might be best brought back to the Assembly if necessary.

I am strongly in favour of open government and the principle that government information should generally be available to members of the Assembly and the public. And there are limited circumstances where that might be the case. I think that can be demonstrated by the fact that, for example, I will shortly bring forward to the Assembly new legislation for freedom of information reform. It is part of the parliamentary agreement. The drafting of that bill is being done in partnership with PCO, Mr Hanson will be assured to know. I will be presenting that bill to the Assembly and it will substantially widen the scope of FOI and limit the number of circumstances in which information would be deemed not to be available.

Members will also recall that I recently supported a motion from Mr Smyth relating to bushfire matters and the seeking of information as well as a motion on information on tax reforms and having that information made available to the Assembly. I think those various decisions demonstrate I have no problem with information being made available in the appropriate form and in the appropriate forum.

But having looked at the nature of these questions, particularly the operational nature of them, in addition to the comments that Mr Corbell has made today, I will not be supporting the motion on the basis that I think these can be best taken up in the upcoming annual reports hearings.

I would say, and I emphasise, that Mr Corbell, as the emergency services minister, is, of course, ultimately responsible for the matters listed in this motion. Some of them are quite operational and are primarily dealt with inside the Emergency Services Agency. But Mr Corbell, as the minister, remains responsible. The fact that they are operational matters is not a reason of its own for not providing the information.

Similarly, as the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services and Minister for Corrections, I am responsible for agencies which have large operational components. They manage the day-to-day matters of the prison, they manage the nature parks, they drive and maintain ACTION buses. And whilst I cannot know every operational decision that occurs in these agencies on a daily basis and it is quite appropriate that I put trust in the experiences of the people who manage them, I am also, of course, ultimately responsible for these agencies. I am also happy to be a conduit for information about operational matters when it is appropriate to provide it to other MLAs and the public.

As I say, I think it is, from my mind, the very broad and extensive nature of Mr Smyth’s motion that I really have a problem with, and I am not sure this is the best way to get the information that is being sought. I have outlined that I think there are good mechanisms coming up in the near future which will allow a dissection of these issues in some detail.

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