None . . Page.. 1379 ..
MR KAINE (4.29): Mr Speaker, I am not quite clear on what Ms Follett seeks to achieve by setting this timescale, because if the reports are published at any time after the fiscal year they have no relevance to Estimates Committee considerations. This year, for valid reasons, the Chief Minister and Treasurer has set back the budgetary cycle, but I presume that next year we will go back to the situation of getting our budget on the table by the end of June for debate in the middle of August. That means that even if the annual reports are brought down within 10 weeks the Estimates Committee process will be over. This has no relevance to consideration of the estimates and the processes of the Estimates Committee.
I think this flows from the fact that there has been some confusion in this place over the years about what the Estimates Committee is supposed to do. I note that the function of an estimates committee is to look at the budget that has just been brought down, not to do an over-the-shoulder look at last year’s budget. That is not the role of an estimates committee. Because of the timing that has been in place since we have had self-government, the Estimates Committee has tended to do both things. If we look at the budgetary cycle and assume that the budget will be brought down in future years in June, and that the budget debate will take place in the middle of August, this timetable that the Leader of the Opposition is putting up is pointless. It has no bearing on the Estimates Committee process. It cannot, because even under this timescale the annual reports will not be brought down until after the Estimates Committee process has finished.
I do not quite know what she is seeking to achieve. If she wants these annual reports in time to be considered by an appropriate Assembly committee as a review of last year’s budget performance, that is a different thing. In that case it does not matter, in a sense, whether the annual reports are brought down in 10 weeks, 12 weeks or 16 weeks, as long as they are brought down in sufficient time for an appropriate Assembly committee to do that over-the-shoulder look. There seems to be some confusion. It does not seem to me to make any difference whether the annual reports are brought down in 10 weeks or 12 weeks, in terms of the Estimates Committee process, which demonstrates that there is still some confusion about what the Estimates Committee process is.
MS McRAE (4.32): Mr Speaker, I do not believe there is any confusion about the Estimates Committee process. It is quite helpful to read annual reports before going into the review of appropriations. I do not see any problem with incorporating the two, using them as a benchmark, using them as a basis for information. That is exactly what people have always done. The amendment was late. My apologies, Mrs Carnell; mea culpa. It was essentially because I was looking at the timetable that was before us this year. When we looked at this Bill we thought, “Oh, my goodness, if we strike the same problem next year, we will not be able to read the annual reports before the estimates process begins”. I take Mr Kaine's point that they are not an integral part of the process; but, if you can read them before you begin a process, all members have found that particularly helpful.