Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2635..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
situation where the government may enter into a controversial contract in the dying days of a financial year, a contract that no-one but the Treasurer would see as urgent and unforeseen. I believe the Assembly should have the opportunity to debate and discuss the requirements of such a contract and the decision to fund it.
Under the government's version, however, which I acknowledge does reflect the public accounts report's recommendation, the Assembly would have no such opportunity. The argument has been put that to treat contractual obligations differently to payments would be inconsistent with accrual accounting and, while that is an interesting argument, I am not yet convinced. I believe that the Treasurer's advance is special money that requires special treatment and that the return of allocated but unspent funds is certainly administratively possible.
I would like to indicate, however, that my mind is a bit easier regarding the provisions of the proposed clause 18A in the government's bill, which will require Assembly notification of use of the Treasurer's advance within three sitting days. This is a commendable change and at least it provides the Assembly with an opportunity to examine government decisions in relation to the Treasurer's advance. I thank the Treasurer for offering this level of accountability.
I would like to briefly address the public accounts inquiry into the proposal I put forward. While I thank the committee for its thorough investigation, the report was a little bit disappointing in that it did not acknowledge that I appeared before the committee, and it did not then pick up on any of my responses to the government's submission to that committee. An interesting debate was held in the Public Accounts Committee's hearing about what the Treasurer had proposed and what I had proposed, but that is not reflected as strongly as I would have preferred it to be in the report.
However, regarding what we are trying to achieve today-approving the accountability of the Treasurer's advance-I agree that both of the ideas put forward do that. We are talking about the expenditure of around $20 million of public money and we do have to ensure that the Treasurer's advance is accountable. I support the continued existence of the Treasurer's advance. I know that there are events that require the government to meet urgent and unavoidable expenses-the January bushfires is a case in point. There are situations where we have no real choice but to spend money quickly so that we can respond to urgent situations, when there is no time to prepare a supplementary appropriation bill.
Acknowledging that my proposals will not be supported by this Assembly, I am happy to support the government's proposals so that we will end up with greater accountability on the Treasurer's advance. I hope that the situation that led to this entire debate will never arise again and we can be assured that the Treasurer's advance is being used in an accountable manner.
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (12.31): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank members for their support. I will not belabour the question. There are a couple of points on which I want to correct the record. I understand Mr Smyth's desire to curry favour with Ms Dundas by crediting her with being the impetus behind the government's bill, but that is simply not true.