Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 1 April 2004) . . Page.. 1561 ..
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (6.18), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate on the report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Ms Dundas has pointed out to me that on page 25, which is the list of witnesses who appeared, she does not appear on the list. I apologise to Ms Dundas. It is an oversight on my part. She will be the subject of my first erratum when it is issued. Members should be aware that Ms Dundas did appear before and give evidence to the committee. I will have that corrected.
The Treasurer has spoken about the potential of a threat. It is not a threat. The whole process of the review of expenditure is something that should be above board. When the Treasurer brought the Appropriation Bill to the Assembly, he had an assumption, an estimation, a hope, that it would be passed by an estimates committee within three weeks. That is not practical because of certain processes—establishing a committee, getting appointments, seeking advice and getting the bill passed.
Mr Quinlan: I have accepted that, haven’t I?
MR SMYTH: The Treasurer says that he accepts that. If he accepts that, then if the Treasurer’s Appropriation Bill falls victim of the sitting pattern of the Assembly—there is a five-week gap—that is not the fault of the Estimates Committee. The Estimates Committee is here to look at what has been put before it in the Appropriation Bill.
Mr Quinlan: I have put forward a no fault plea.
MR SMYTH: I understand that. It is not the fault of the Public Accounts Committee that something is brought to their attention that concerns them. A motion of the Assembly to review the Appropriation Bill has been sent to the committee and the committee will do that. The dilemma for the government is that it wants to spend the money now but it does not have it. The Assembly has said, “Send the bill to the committee for review” and the Treasurer is saying, “I might find a way that will get me around it.” Is it legal? Yes, I have seen the legal advice. The GSO says that it believes it is legal to expend money using the Treasurer’s Advance—that is the use of the FMA. The dilemma for the committee is: is it some sort of insult—I do not want to overwork the point—or contempt of what the Assembly decided to then find a way to circumvent that decision? That is the point we make. We ask the government not to circumvent the process by using the TA.
Mr Quinlan: The decision was to go and it has gone—fine.
MR SMYTH: It renders the work of the Estimates Committee useless. We come back to the Assembly with a recommendation only to find that the government has spent the money anyway. You are circumventing the process and rendering the process for that part of the appropriation bill useless. That is the point that we make.
Mr Quinlan: Unfortunately you will have to look at it after the event, mate.
MR SMYTH: Go ahead. Do what you need to do. But the recommendation of the committee stands: the estimates process should not be circumvented. The estimates process has been established by the Assembly. If you want to override the decision of the Assembly, go for it. It is not issued as a threat. It was not meant to be a threat and I hope