Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . . Page.. 1926..
Questions without notice
MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Chief Minister. How much did it cost taxpayers to send the letter out yesterday to Canberra households to promote your budget, and how much is your government spending on publicity for the budget?
MR STANHOPE: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. I fear that I do not have the answer to the question that he asked about the specific cost of an information letter to residents of the ACT about the budget. The other part of the question was about an advertising budget for the budget. I am more than happy to take on notice the specific aspects of the question asked. I am more than happy to provide the details of that to the Leader of the Opposition when I have it to hand.
It needs to be said that, in relation to communication with the electorate and the advertising of particular initiatives, it is vitally important that governments consult and communicate with the people that they represent. There is no more important policy document than a budget. The budget, in its presentation and the allocation of resources for governmental priorities, is the most significant single document or announcement that a government makes in a parliament in any year. It is vitally important that governments do everything within their power to communicate to the people they represent the very important decisions that are made through the budget process.
Implicit in the question is the suggestion that governments should keep people in the dark and that governments should not take that extra step to communicate with their constituents or the people that they represent. Implicit in the question is the suggestion that the people of Canberra do not deserve to be informed about decisions that affect them in their day-to-day lives so fundamentally. Implicit in the question is the suggestion that this government should not tell the people of Canberra the implications of decisions which it has taken on their behalf and through which it utilises their money.
Mr Smyth: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: under standing order 118 (b), the minister is not allowed to debate the issue; he must answer the question, not debate any issues that he thinks are relevant. Would you drag him back to the question? If he has finished, he should sit down.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, the question was about expenditure. I am sure the next question will be: how can you justify this? These questions are political in nature. There is a need to put these things in context.
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is an important question. It was a very important budget, perhaps the most significant budget that has been delivered in the territory in the last 16 years, to the extent that it seeks a major restructure or a major change in the way government services are delivered. It is a budget that contains very, very significant initiatives and changes in the delivery of government services in the territory. The people of Canberra deserve all the information, all the advice, that can possibly be provided and some explanation on the detail of the decisions that have been taken. Some of these decisions are fundamental to the way in which health, education,