Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 797..
MR MULCAHY (continuing):
tabled in the Legislative Assembly. Mr Stanhope's predecessor as Treasurer, Mr Quinlan, adhered to this practice throughout his time in office.
It is disappointing that the current Chief Minister and Treasurer, Mr Stanhope, has not demonstrated the same commitment to good governance. The reports have always been an important tool for opposition parties and the taxpaying public to keep track of the progress of capital works that have been announced and budgeted for. The last such report was tabled by the ACT government for the December 2005 quarter. Five unreported quarters have now passed.
In question time yesterday the Chief Minister made the claim that the fact the opposition had not raised this matter publicly previously was in some way evidence of his claim that the reports are not a useful tool. I would argue, firstly, that this point is irrelevant: the reports should be in the public domain whether they are being publicly utilised or not. Secondly, despite the Chief Minister's claims to the contrary, the opposition has been aware of their absence for some time.
The Chief Minister was correct in his assertion, also made during question time, that information about capital works is available from other sources, notably annual reports and estimates documents. I will ignore his claim that government media releases present a balanced, unbiased source of information. The release of annual reports and estimates documents occurs only once a year. It is a long time to wait to access information in a timely fashion. It makes it very difficult for members of the Assembly and those who are providing the funding-the taxpaying community of Canberra-to keep track of progress in relation to promised capital works that governments make at budgets and during election campaigns.
As an example of how the reports are of use to the community and opposition parties, my colleague Brendan Smyth has publicly raised the example of the government's $500,000 commitment to rejuvenate 40 destroyed ovals-ovals destroyed as a consequence of the drought. The minister later revealed that the commitment would not proceed, because of the drought. But without capital works program progress reports, it is impossible to track whether the money has been spent, held over or committed to another project.
We should not have to go on fishing expeditions in relation to every promise made by this territory government involving capital works funding. The information ought to be in a publicly available document. There is a duty for the territory government to make this information available in a periodic, regular and timely fashion.
The Chief Minister suggested that press releases, budget papers and annual reports were other sources of this information, but they do not provide this type of information in the timely way that quarterly capital works reports would.
This is why I was quite distressed to read in the Canberra Times on Wednesday, 18April the following comment from an unnamed Treasury official:
The reports were not user-friendly to the public as they were largely comprised of complex spreadsheets. [They] were determined ... to more appropriately be used internally within government.