Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1233..
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment): Mr Speaker, I advise members that my colleague, the Minister for Health and Minister for Planning, is travelling interstate to a ministerial council meeting. I regret his absence from question time. I am happy to take any questions members might want to ask of the minister and will respond as soon as I am able.
Questions without notice
MR SMYTH: Treasurer, on 11 December last year you stated in this place:
Under advice from Treasury to cabinet, the government applied $10 million of unexpended Treasurer's Advance to an urgent maintenance need in relation to fire safety ...
Yesterday you informed the house that there was no written advice or that, since you did not have such a paper, you assumed it did not exist. Are you saying that cabinet decided-I think you will find that it is cabinet decision No 0187-to expend this $10 million on social housing on the basis of oral advice?
MR QUINLAN: I understand that this issue has been the subject of an FOI request and that Mr Smyth has been provided with a sheaf of papers. I presume that all relevant material, other than cabinet documents, has been provided.
I am not sure of the exact words I used, but I think I have said in this place once before that that occurred in May, in the last week or two before the budget was finalised. You need a week of so to print the budget. I assume, Mr Smyth, the time you spent in government was not totally wasted and that you would be aware of the processes that would occur leading up to the finalisation of the budget. A lot of decisions are taken very close to the deadline, because priorities are being set and reset.
Let me assure you that when we sit in cabinet we have the benefit of the advice of not only the Under Treasurer and officials that handle the budget but also agency heads. Sometimes their collective advice is good enough.
MR SMYTH: I ask a supplementary question. Who gave you the oral advice, and are you going to apply the same sloppy standards of verbals to this year's budget?
MR QUINLAN: To answer the first question, I recall that the main advice came from the Under Treasurer at the time, Mr Ronaldson. I will not answer the second question so much as respond by saying, "Isn't it about time we got beyond the undergraduate style inherent in the question?"The standards at question time in this place over the last 12 to 15 months have been pretty poor.