Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 6 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2055..
MR SPEAKER (continuing):
Is this the wish of the Assembly? That being so, schedule 1 will be considered by each part, consisting of net cost of outputs, capital injection and payments on behalf of the territory, then the clauses prior to schedule 2 and the title.
Proposed expenditure—part 1.1—Legislative Assembly Secretariat—$5,878,000 (net cost of outputs), $212,000 (capital injection), $4,974,000 (payments on behalf of the territory), totalling $11,064,000
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (12.25): Mr Speaker, the Legislative Assembly budget is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that we work here, and those that we work with are supported by this budget. But the key issue that came up when discussing the Assembly was, of course, the future of the Assembly library, which has been hanging over the staff there for years now. We understand there is a report. But, as so often happens in the estimates, when the minister was challenged as to when he had received the report and when the report was going to go to you, Mr Speaker, the answers were very thin. That is a shame, because it is disrespectful to the staff in the library itself and it is disrespectful to you, Mr Speaker, as the person in charge of this Assembly. It is also disrespectful that ministers do not come prepared properly for estimates, and we saw it time and time again.
If this budget is as spectacular a success as the Chief Minister would have everyone believe, you would think that ministers would actually be able to sell it. You would think they would be across their briefs and that they would actually know what was in the budget. We have a section in the dissenting report on the behaviour of the ministers, because, time and time again, various tactics were used to slow down the process, to obfuscate the answers and to deny members the answers. Of course, it culminated in the embarrassment for the Chief Minister of being recalled by the committee.
Unlike his recollection yesterday that he volunteered to return, the Chief Minister was recalled. Unlike his lack of recollection when he got to the committee on 16 June, the letter from the chair of the committee to the Chief Minister indicated that the hearing was from 10.30 to 2.30. Again, the way that questions are answered leaves more doubt hanging over the ability of the ministers, particularly the Chief Minister, to administer this budget and to deliver the budget.
At times, as is the tradition in every other parliament in this country, members wanted to ask the officials questions, and they were denied the right to ask those questions. Before he became the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope wanted more open, more accountable, more honest government. But, as I said yesterday and as I have said several times, we see less and less accountability and less and less openness. If the government and its officials will not answer questions then you actually have to have a really good look at what the estimates process is about.
There are recommendations in the committee's report about the process; there are recommendations about setting up some rules for the estimates because ministers constantly hid—