Public Release of Records
Common Release Canberra Day Holiday
Up until November 2010 agency records became publicly available once they were more than 20 years old. This was an incremental opening, which meant that individual folios within a file became progressively open as each folio reached 20 years of age. Executive documents were available on 1 July at 10 years of age.
Under an amendment to the Territory Records Act 2002 in 2010 the open access period for Australian Capital Territory government records now commences on the next Canberra Day after the end of 20 years. This change means that agency records are now open together once they reach the Canberra Day Holiday on or around the 12th March each year. The change also means Executive Documents are opened on Canberra Day rather than 1 July.
These changes mean beginning in 2011, on Canberra Day each year, the Director of Territory Records releases records from 20 years before that are open to public access. At the same time Cabinet records from 10 years before are also released.
See the 2011 Media Release: Territory_and_Cabinet_records_release_web.pdf ( PDF 71Kb)
Accessible Executive Records
As part of the ACT Government’s Open Government Commitment a public summary of matters considered by Cabinet is released each month. The Summary of Cabinet Outcomes is found here: http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/cabinet
Government agencies exist to implement policy decisions made by the Executive. Detailed background papers and earlier drafts of the Cabinet papers can be found on the files of the agency which sponsored each Cabinet submission. These papers reveal the detailed deliberations of the public service on the topic and often include the opinions and guidance of the responsible Minister and are available to the public on Canberra Day after 20 years has passed.
The ACT Executive is established by section 36 of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth) (the Self Government Act) and comprises the Chief Minister and up to four ministers.
The powers of the ACT Executive are set out in section 37 of the Self Government Act which provides:
The Executive has the responsibility for:
(a) governing the Territory with respect to matters specified in Schedule 4;
(b) executing and maintaining enactments and subordinate laws;
(c) exercising such other powers as are vested in the Executive by or under a law in force in the Territory or an agreement or arrangement between the Territory and the Commonwealth, a State or another Territory; and
(d) exercising prerogatives of the Crown so far as they relate to the Executive’s responsibility mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c).
In practice, the ACT Executive meets as the Cabinet and sets policy for the ACT Government through collective, consensus-based decision making. The Cabinet meets regularly and operates under Westminster conventions. For more information see the Cabinet Handbook: http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/policystrategic/cabinet/cabsec
Release of Executive Records
The Executive Documents Release Act 2001 has been integrated with the Territory Records Act 2002. These provisions have been included within the Territory Records Act 2002 as a distinct part (Part 3A) so that the Cabinet Office, through the Chief Minister’s Department, still has responsibility for the for the approval and oversighting the release of Cabinet records. They are available to the public on Canberra Day after 10 years has passed.
Section 31C of the Territory Records Act 2002 provides that a list of accessible executive documents be made available to the public, and that if requested, copies of the listed documents be made available without charge.
Under the Act, executive documents are:
(a) an official record of a meeting of the Executive; or
(b) a document that was—
(i) formally submitted by a Minister to a meeting of the Executive for its consideration in relation to a matter on the official record; and
(ii) created for that purpose; or
(c) part of a document mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b).