Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 1043..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Appropriation Bill (No 3). This is a much smaller document. Relatively much less time will be required and the time that we factored into this is ample. Because of that housing issue I ask some people to pay attention to how they vote.
MS TUCKER (10.54): So there is not such pressure on the committee to look at this in the time that the government wants, the report could be tabled out of session in April. That would then allow members to be fully aware of what the expenditure is and be willing to immediately pass the appropriation bill on the first sitting day. The arguments I am hearing are that this money needs to be spent before the end of the financial year but we already know that under the current law as soon as that money is transferred to departments-this is what came up with the Treasurer's Advance issue last time-it is spent, so that should not upset the bottom line for the government's next budget. That is how I understand it but if someone wants to tell me that I am wrong, I will be interested to hear it. That was the issue raised with the Auditor-General over the Treasurer's Advance, the question of what was spent. So I think we do need reasonable time and we can table the committee's report out of session in April. Everyone will be well and truly ready for a debate.
MR STEFANIAK (10.56): The sum of $106 million is no small matter and to expect the committee to report by 30 March, in about 19 days or something, is quite ludicrous. The government supposedly prides itself on proper consultation but in this case it clearly thumbs its nose at that. Ms Tucker is quite right. If the report is done before 4 May, it can be added to the speaking list. Paragraph 4 of Mr Smyth's motion enables just that to happen. What Mr Smyth is proposing is far more realistic. It is still a tight time frame but it is in line with the budget. What Ms Tucker says has a lot of sense. It is appropriate that a lengthier period be given and if need be this report can be handed in prior to 4 May. The provision is there for that to happen. To expect a committee, which probably has a lot of other things to do as well, to look at such a major matter, $106 million, in such a short time, is quite ludicrous.
MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (10.57): This is not a complex inquiry for the Assembly to undertake. This is a very straightforward investigation. While Mr Smyth will make the assertion that it is $100 million, members have heard the Treasurer say in his presentation speech where the money is being spent. The government is quite happy for this to be investigated through an estimates process. We have no difficulty with the bill being scrutinised, but we do not think it is warranted to delay full Assembly consideration of this bill for the period that Mr Smyth is suggesting. When you look at the detail of the bill you see that a significant majority of the funds proposed to be expended deal with wage increases and the provision for enterprise bargaining arrangements with ACT public servants. That is the bulk of this bill. That is not an item that traditionally has come under heavy scrutiny by any estimates committee in any Assembly. So to suggest that somehow there is going to be some forensic bit-by-bit examination is quite misleading. When one looks at those items and then at the items that would have otherwise been dealt with through a Treasurer's Advance without an estimates committee investigation-
Mr Smyth: On a point of order: Mr Corbell has said that comments made are quite misleading. If they are quite misleading, the member should be asked to withdraw them. I am not aware of any misleading comments that have been made and if there are and Mr Corbell is not happy with them then he should move the substantive motion.