Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 2214 ..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
I thank the committee for their examination of the 1995-96 capital works program. I believe that their recommendations will lead to a much better approach to capital works in the future and quite substantial changes at departmental level. I commend the Government's response to the Assembly.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (3.31): Mr Speaker, I will make a few brief comments on the Estimates Committee report. I have to confess to being not so impressed as members of the committee, particularly those from the other side of the chamber, about the report of the Estimates Committee. In some ways I found the experience of appearing before the committee to be an unusual one. I had expected more focus on the achievability of the targets the Government had set itself in the budget.
Mr Moore: We did not ask you, Gary, because every time we asked anybody else they said, "We will leave that up to the bureaucrats". There was no point.
MR HUMPHRIES: I do not know what happened to other Ministers who appeared before the committee. I was prepared to answer and surprised that I was not asked for information on those matters, but I suppose that is a matter for members of the committee to discuss. In the sense that we expect and hope that the Estimates Committee will provide useful information to help the Government frame budgets in future years, I have to ask seriously whether that was a target or a goal achieved by this year's Estimates Committee. There are a number of recommendations in the report dealing with how the committee should get information in future years. They could be described as mechanical recommendations related to how the committee does its job in future years. They are of some importance to the committee but not of much importance to anybody else. Other recommendations that I would describe as being of a political nature basically second guess the Government on a whole series of areas.
Ms Follett, in speaking to her motion earlier today, suggested that this was the first time that there had been a request to a government of the day to change its budget in line with recommendations made by the Estimates Committee. I have to say that that simply is not true. I perused a number of previous years' reports and found occasions when recommendations of that kind had been made. As the Chief Minister has pointed out, on those occasions the former Government quite unambiguously rejected such recommendations and refused to amend its budget in accordance with those requests. To the credit of the then Opposition, it did not proceed to grandstand and demand that the Assembly force the government of the day to make amendments that had been requested, in some cases unanimously, by the Estimates Committee. But the contrast will be made by other people. They can draw their conclusions from that.
To be specific about my assertions, I note that in the Estimates Committee report of 1991-92 it was recommended that the funding for the three non-government schools - that was a reference to an earlier recommendation - be reinstated pending appropriate consultation and negotiation on future support. That was clearly a recommendation relating to that year's budget, not to future years' budgets. That recommendation was rejected by the government of the day. Similarly, there was a recommendation in the previous year's Estimates Committee report that from 1 January 1991 - that is, within the period of the budget - the Government increase the amount available for capital grants for distribution to sporting and other community organisations previously assisted by the