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Coordinator-General - Right to Information Request for Release of Diary
Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
The Coordinator-General is a public servant under the State Service Act. He is paid $446 000 to cosy up to business, travel internationally - mostly to China - and initiate trade in public assets. Mr Perry is a public servant. Therefore, how he spends his time on the taxpayers' coin is a matter of public interest. Your Government in its ongoing erosion of the spirit and intent of the Right to Information Act 2009 is refusing to release this extremely highly paid public servant's diary. Is this not giving the middle finger to the public's right to know? How do you justify this secrecy and contempt for transparency?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and correct her assertions by, again, confirming that this Government has strengthened our RTI laws. Our processes were exactly the same as was applied under your government, the Labor-Greens government. Our RTI officers are independent people so at every turn when opposition parties criticise the processes they are criticising these independent officers. A number of them served under the Labor-Greens government. It is important that they be allowed to operate independently and to ensure that the act is applied appropriately as it is under my Government and I would hope it was under yours.
With respect to the Office of the Coordinator-General, which is an important one, it has not been supported by the Labor Party all the time - sometimes it has. It was a great example of the Labor Party wanting to take an important government resource out of Launceston, to strip the Government of an important facilitator of economic growth and investment in our state which is supporting jobs and Tasmania's economic prosperity. It is important that we have an office that is equipped to ensure that Tasmania continues to have such a strongly performing economy.
With respect to the RTI request to which the member refers, on 16 May it was reported in the Mercury newspaper that the Department of State Growth has signalled that it may not release the diary details of the Coordinator-General being sought under the Right to Information laws. Under the act there are potential considerations around, not only third-party consultation with meeting participants in regard to personal information but also commercial-in-confidence matters that would warrant assessment. It is entirely appropriate that any person, any public officer, including parliamentarians who meet with individuals or organisations, that we should allow those individuals or organisations to also be aware of their rights under these laws, and also ensure that where there are matters that occur in commercial-in-confidence, that they be respected.
We are not like the Labor-Greens coalition - all care and no responsibility about these matters. They are important if we are going to continue to see such strong investment in our state, which is the highest in the country. We need to ensure that our businesses and the investors, wherever they are from, can do so confidently in Tasmania knowing that the Labor Party or the Greens are not going to use them as political playthings and damage their confidence in our state, which is also the highest in the country.
In this case, the request is being assessed by departmental RTI officers. Again, I say importantly at arms-length from government and also from the Coordinator-General. I am advised that in communications with the Mercury the department advised the RTI request would involve a large amount of staff time and resources to fulfil. The RTI request is not being refused, as has been made clear publicly, including to the Mercury. It remains in progress and once a decision has been made, there avenues for review should an applicant not agree with the assessment of the independent RTI officer.