Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 November 2021) . . Page.. 3121 ..
MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.55): This is trying to fix up a stuff-up. That is what is happening here. When the government changed the sitting pattern, they did not incorporate a plan for the estimates and budget process. I identified this to the government, and that led to Mr Gentleman writing to the committee chairs.
It is unfortunate. It has been an unusual year; I accept that. But in the circumstances where we have a budget that has an extraordinary amount of debt and deficit, where we have seen a whole range of issues—in the emergency departments and the health system, in education, in policing and across the board—the very important process of scrutinising that budget, which rests this year with the standing committees, is being severely curtailed.
It is very disappointing that in a circumstance where committees are required to report on mechanisms of government they get such a short amount of time to do that. Indeed, as I understand it, there will be reports written this year on the budget when committees do not have the transcript available and do not have responses to questions taken on notice.
Having identified that there was a stuff-up, on 12 October I proposed to the government a workaround that would have given the committees a bit more time. The reporting date would have been the 19th. Then the government response would have been due by the 30th. That would have given the government more time and it would have given committees more time.
The restriction then would have been on the amount of debate we had in this place. We will just debate for a week. If we limited some of the speeches from backbenchers saying how wonderful the budget is, we could have got through that pretty easily and focused on the important matter of the committees’ work in scrutinising the budget.
On 12 October, I also identified that the opposition would be willing to come back for another sitting week so that we could do our job properly. We would be very prepared to make sure that the committees have had sufficient time. They were meant to have until 5 December, to give the committees and us the proper time to assess it.
The government seems far more interested in circumventing the amount of time committees have. Rather than coming up with a compromise which would have allowed the committees more time to consider the matters put before them, it has tried to rush that process through so that we can hear from all the government backbenchers, in long laborious speeches spread over two weeks, about how wonderful this government is in delivering the budget.
I do not think this government has its priorities right. There is a stuff-up here, as I said. We have said that we would be happy to come back for another sitting week. The government does not want to do that. There is a better workaround which gives the committees more time to consider what is before them, to make sure that they have responses to questions taken on notice and that members of committees can actually read transcripts before reports are rushed through.