Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 447..
Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.
Questions without notice
Economic discussion paper
MR SMYTH: My question is for the Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism. Mr Quinlan, in this year's budget you allocated $250,000 to develop the economic white paper, which is largely a statement of, in your own words, "the bleeding obvious". The allocation was for this year only, with no allocation for future years. As it appears certain that you will still be working on this paper next financial year, has the development of this statement of the bleeding obvious gone over time and over budget?
MR QUINLAN: Thank you for the question, Leader of the Opposition. I do not know that it will flow over to next year. You are probably aware that budgeting is a fluid process: you do it once a year and revise your estimates. That happens from time to time.
Despite what you might want to believe about it, the economic white paper is supported by a considerable body of work-some being done by external consultants, complemented by work done within the department. In terms of budget funding, one probably does not need to fund the department with other than the normal operational funding.
In terms of the external consultants, it is problematic as to whether further consultancy will be required. Further consultancy might be required if, as we are now anticipating, there are some very innovative ideas flowing from that side of the house, which might require some support and investigation. As I have said, budgeting is a fluid process, and a lot of the external work-the ACIL work, the examination that we have done and, going even further back, the work that we did with the commission of audit-becomes the body of work upon which this discussion paper is based.
MR SMYTH: I have a supplementary. The Canberra Times, in your supplement, said yesterday that the white paper was expected by the end of the year. Was that the financial year or the calendar year?
MR QUINLAN: Oppositions are there to oppose, make mischief or whatever, and that is fair enough, but they are trying to build a case that all of a sudden this is an urgent thing. Before the last election, we committed to produce an economic white paper, and we will do that.
Mrs Dunne: Why did you have this special appropriation if it wasn't urgent?
MR QUINLAN: To pay for the external consultants. Don't you listen? Well, selectively. Sorry, Mrs Dunne. As I said in answer to the first question, if it is necessary to do further work and pay consultants for it, then we will. If this is a contrived urgency that you are trying to build and then say, "It's late, it's late, it's late!"-well, sorry. As I have said right from the start, we want to do this job and we want to do it thoroughly.