Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (12 February) . . Page.. 343..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
After talking to members of the committee, I understand that it is quite possible for the committee to meet that deadline. We will have some further information about the Treasurer's Advance in other jurisdictions and the whole Treasurer's Advance question. As I said, I am keen to see the Treasurer's Advance clarified. I would have liked to have done that sooner rather than later. I note that the Assembly is keen to have this further investigation and I think that it could be quite productive. In the meantime, I think the Treasurer must be aware that he must be quite prudent in any further use of the Treasurer's Advance as concerns have been raised in this Assembly, in previous assemblies and by the Auditor-General. I hope the Treasurer is cautious while we await the committee's report and any further changes to section 18 of the Financial Management Act.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (5.30): The opposition will support this reference to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, I am quite happy to receive it. I note that the Treasurer today tabled the government's response to report 6 of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This is the report in which the Auditor-General raised the issue of the misuse of the Treasurer's Advance and the possible illegality of it all. In light of the way the Treasurer's Advance has been abused by this government, it is absolutely more than appropriate that we look at how it is being used. I think the opportunity should be taken for a much broader examination of the purpose, structure, operations, limitations and obligations of the Treasurer's Advance.
Recommendation 2 of the committee's report was that an independent review of the FMA be undertaken. I note that the government has not agreed to that, which is disappointing. It is certainly something that the Auditor-General recommended. Recommendation 3 said, in particular, that section 18 of the FMA providing for the Treasurer's Advance be reviewed to clarify the purpose and use of the Treasurer's Advance. The government's response in this case was to agree. Recommendation 4 of the committee's report was that regulations be established for the use of the Treasurer's Advance. The government's response was not to agreed because the government considers addressing the use of Treasurer's Advance through administrative guidelines rather than through regulation is considered appropriate, even though there is no explanation as to what makes it appropriate.
Given the government's tardiness in some of these matters, it is important that the inquiry is done and done quickly. The PAC should be in a position to have it back to the Assembly by 1 April and then we can come back and review what Ms Dundas has proposed in her bill, the Financial Management Amendment Bill 2003 (No 3). Taking that bill in the context of what happens in other jurisdictions is very important. Some jurisdictions set it as a percentage of the total budget; others have a fixed amount. There are other systems operating around the country and a quick and effective review of those systems will, I hope, come back to the Assembly on 1 April and will, I hope, influence the way we look at Ms Dundas's bill. Hopefully, it will bring about other amendments. We want a structure in which treasurers know they can operate so that there is certainty. We do not want an Auditor-General's report that says that the Treasurer's Advance has been misused and that it was possibly illegal.