Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 September 2017) . . Page.. 3557 ..
MR BARR: Yes, there is indeed a cost of democracy, and I am not seeking to suggest that there should not be a question on notice process. But there is also a question of balance and reasonableness. There have been 600 questions on notice, many of those questions multifaceted questions that run over pages and that involve seeking information from outside of government and require quite complex pieces of work in order to provide answers to members. I think the record of this government in providing answers in a timely way would compare very well to those of previous governments in this place over the nearly 30 years of self-government.
Whilst in this instance Mrs Dunne has a few questions that are about a week overdue, I think it is important that the Assembly understand and acknowledge that these are not just abstract processes; there is a lot of work that goes into answering questions on notice. And these 600 that are on the notice paper do not include the questions that come through the estimates process that we have just concluded, and then the annual reports process. They are also part of scrutiny in this place. There are thousands of questions. In fact, a good chunk of our public service’s time is spent simply answering questions on notice.
In this debate more broadly, it is important to be able to balance a range of competing priorities. The commitment I give on behalf of all ministers in this place is to endeavour to answer all questions as promptly as possible. But there is also a responsibility in relation to the length of questions and the type of information and reasonableness of questions that are asked that goes both ways in any functioning democracy.
On occasion there will be information that takes longer to obtain or the number and volume of questions in terms of sub-questions within a certain period make it difficult to respond within deadlines. The record of ministers in this place in answering questions on notice, I believe, is very good. Ministers do seek to provide answers in a timely way, as is seen by the fact that there are very few questions that are beyond the deadline and there have been 600 asked.
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Urban Renewal) (3.41): Madam Speaker, I want to speak to this as well, particularly in regard to the Chief Minister’s comments about the amount of detail in questions. Firstly, I will apologise to Mrs Dunne with regard to two questions outstanding from me. One is regarding Smith Street in Weetangera. The response is being signed this afternoon and will be with Mrs Dunne tomorrow.
But in particular I want to go to question 371 regarding Kinleyside Crescent, Weetangera. Again, I apologise for the delay, but the question does go back for quite a lengthy time. In fact, correspondence between the two offices began in 2015. It is important that, with this response, we take into account all of that correspondence to provide a full answer with all of the history involved. That is the work that my office has been doing to ensure that we get the best answer to Mrs Dunne in a timely manner. In this case, it is just over the due time, but it will be delivered to her office tomorrow or submitted by tomorrow.