Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2380 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I have to stress again that I am very sorry we have been put into the position we have been put into. I have already stated publicly today that we are prepared to vote against this budget. Ms Follett keeps insisting that we are not. We are not happy about having to do that. We do not believe that it necessarily means a lack of confidence in the Government. That is the choice and an interpretation you may make. What we intend it to mean is that we say very strongly that you need to look at that budget again, that we are not happy with it. Once again, there is no need always to take the line that both major parties want to take, namely, "If you do not like our budget that means you do not like us and you are telling us to stand down". There is a matter of choice in that, and I refuse to accept that there is not.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (4.29): To close the debate, let me make a few brief comments. First of all, in response to the last point Ms Tucker raised about loss of face, I think she does not understand the significance of what she and those opposite might be doing by voting against line items in the budget. Of course it is a loss of face in one sense. Of course it is embarrassing for the Government to have a provision in its legislation for the appropriation of moneys for the Territory's use for the next 12 months modified on the floor of the Assembly. That is a matter of embarrassment, of course, but the problem goes much deeper than that.
The changing of the government's formulation of its budget amounts to a motion of no confidence in that government. That is the traditional formulation. I concede that that is the way it has been treated in the past. I think it was the Scullin Government, or it might have been the first Menzies Government - I cannot recall, to be frank - back in the earlier part of this century, whose budget was a proposal to amend - - -
Ms Follett: It was in 1941.
MR HUMPHRIES: In 1941, Ms Follett assures me, the first Menzies Government. A proposal to amend that budget, reducing it by [sterling]1, was put on the floor of the House of Representatives and was carried, and that constituted the trigger for the Government to change. Ms Tucker looks askance at that suggestion: "That was 1941". I have to repeat the point that the formulation of the budget is the responsibility of the government. If the Assembly says, "We are not prepared to give you the prerogative as a government to take that fundamental step and formulate your own budget as you see fit, albeit with consultation, whatever we want to do as far as that is concerned", or, the government having made those decisions, having put the Appropriation Bill forward, if the Assembly chooses to amend that budget, even so much as to vote against a particular line item successfully on the floor of the Assembly, it constitutes a motion of no confidence in the government.
I have to indicate that we would treat it as such. I do not know that we have the capacity to do much about it. We might have to put the issue of the Chief Ministership on the line in the Assembly. We do not have the prerogative of going to a vice-regal representative and asking for a further election of the Assembly, but I think that is a weakness, frankly, in our present system of government. If governments cannot bring down budgets,