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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 2179..


MS TUCKER (continuing):

Nevertheless, the committee did cover a lot of ground, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms McRae for chairing the committee, other members of the Assembly who were part of the process, and Mr Bill Symington and the secretariat for all their support.

Much of the time we spent in the Estimates Committee was devoted to trying to get answers to questions the Government appeared to be unable to answer, either because they had not fleshed out their economic blueprint or because they did not want to answer the questions. For this reason, it was at times a frustrating process. While the Government appears to be totally opposed to changes to their budget, they do not appear to have much knowledge about the ramifications of the budget on the people of Canberra. They have cut spending here, and introduced new procedures there, but when questioned on the detail they were very unclear about the potential results. The Government does not seem to know what the ramifications are of dismantling the industrial relations system, the meagre pay rise and the separate agency bargains for ACT government employees. There is a lack of detail on executive contracts, little knowledge about the so-called community service obligations that agencies will have to meet, and a significant lack of detail in the health portfolio. Who knows what is happening to urban services or public transport.

In short, this Government brought down a budget which we feel did not have sufficient depth to it. That was the impression I was left with from the Estimates Committee. Of course, the other key message from the Government was that, despite its election rhetoric, there would be no consultation or inclusive decision-making processes - nothing that comes even close to consultative government. Mr Speaker, it is clear that the system is not working as well as it could. We believe that the Government should immediately put in train a process by which it becomes more consultative and which gives Assembly members and community members who wish to be involved an opportunity to do so in a less antagonistic manner than is necessary now. While the Greens believe that it is imperative that this Assembly maintain its ability to amend budgets, we also believe that it would be better to have more input at the beginning of the process. We believe that the budget should go to the Estimates Committee as a draft budget - a budget that can still be changed and worked on without too much loss of face. The draft budget would be presented to the Assembly but not agreed to in principle until after it had returned from the Estimates Committee and been modified accordingly.

It is imperative that the Estimates Committee recommendations be taken seriously; that they be implemented and acted upon wherever possible. However, the Greens recognise that, at the end of the day, the Executive is responsible for bringing down a budget. In a minority government the Government is as responsible for ensuring stable government as the crossbenchers and the Opposition. This Government has abrogated its responsibilities to the Assembly by refusing to consult. It has abrogated its responsibilities to stable government by breaking its key election promise on open and consultative government.

Some of the issues that were of particular concern to the Greens, issues we raised time and time again during the estimates hearings, were public transport, mental health, education, labour market programs - and the list goes on. On a general level, we were very concerned about the lack of integration in the budget of social, economic and


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