Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 August 2017) . . Page.. 2294 ..
community facility zones that have been or are being considered for the construction of public housing developments.
Despite trumpeting transparency and openness, this government has closed those secret files as tightly as they possibly can and gone to extraordinary lengths to stop Canberrans from knowing what is planned in their street, in their park and in their suburb. The chamber will recall that I presented a motion calling on this government to reveal the detail on use of community facility zoned land and to explain the need for secrecy in relation to issues of public concern.
The motion also asked the government to demonstrate proper transparency and commitment to a genuine open government. The minister and her government promptly hit this motion for six and substituted their own version of what they see as transparency and openness. The chamber will also recall that on 7 June it adopted a resolution seeking the release of the redacted elements of documents issued in response to an earlier FOI request. In response, the Chief Minister claimed executive privilege, with this claim upheld by the independent legal arbiter.
I certainly do not challenge the decision of the legal arbiter. But you can understand why those out in the suburbs have formed a view that this government is not open and does not wish to genuinely consult. I am sure the Chief Minister could have found a middle ground that would have given the community insights into the thinking in relation to the selection of sites for the public housing renewal program. But, no; the Chief Minister said that it was not in the public interest to do so.
All we can do is wonder about exactly whose public interest is at stake here. This government still has a chance to redeem itself as we are led to believe that there are still some greenfield sites to be announced for the public housing renewal program. I note that the minister has circulated a statement regarding public housing on community facility zoned land and delivered it today in this chamber. It is a well crafted statement of some three pages which demonstrates the minister’s continued passion for secrecy, because the statement says very little.
We do welcome the minister’s decision to extend the public comment period on development applications by five weeks. The minister’s statement also speaks of minimum community engagement requirements for developers, which makes a useful contribution to the engagement process. What is badly needed now, though, to complement this is demonstrable action by the government itself for genuine openness and transparency, something that is totally lacking at the moment.
MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (4.26): I thank Mrs Kikkert for bringing this matter of public importance before us today. This MPI provides the government with an opportunity to talk about how we are continuing to consult with Canberrans. The key tenet of democracy is participation. The government has already taken great strides to improve participation in government decisions. I would be very happy to outline how our government is engaging and consulting with the community. The government is constantly working to be more consultative. This can be seen in a range of new measures being undertaken early in this term of government.