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SUPPLY BILL 1995-96
Debate resumed from 1 June 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.01): Mr Speaker, I have no intention of attempting to deny the Supply Bill - I think that to do so would be totally irresponsible, unless one had good reason - but I must say that the Bill that we have been presented with does cause me grave concern. This is the first time since self-government that the Assembly has not been provided with a supply Bill which defines the proposed supply at program level. You can go back through all of the supply Bills that we have had in the Assembly and see that there has always been that level of detail.
I regard the present Supply Bill as very much a backward step for this Assembly, which does have a proud record in leading other parliaments in Australia in the level of financial reporting provided by the Executive to the legislature. I hope that this backward step by the present Government is not a sign of worse to come. In terms of our leading parliaments of Australia, Mr Speaker, we were the first parliament to publish three-year forward estimates for both expenditure and revenue, and also to provide those forward estimates to the legislature. In every other year, including the first year, 1989, with less than a month's preparation, the Assembly was provided with a supply Bill detailing program level proposed expenditure.
In her statement to the Assembly when she introduced the Bill, the Treasurer said:
To allow agency heads greater flexibility in financial management, the level of appropriation of moneys by the Assembly will be to administrative units.
What we have here is a very broad-brush approach, Mr Speaker. The explanatory memorandum that was circulated with the Bill details 17 new administrative units or programs. It does not explain which of the 17 are administrative units and which are programs. It is certainly not clear from the document. To add to the confusion that was created, the explanatory memorandum also says:
Lower level programs and subprograms retain importance in that they remain obligatory reporting levels.
Mr Speaker, it seems that they may be reporting levels; but which is which, because it is certainly not clear, and how much any of them get is clearly not reported to this Assembly? I regard that as very much a backward step in terms of accountability and in terms of transparency of financial management. Just to ensure that, even if you were able to wade through and come to some understanding - in fact, I found that a nearly impossible task - the Government has presented us with a double whammy.