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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 4046 ..

Schedule 1 - Appropriations

Part 1 - Legislative Assembly Secretariat

Proposed expenditure - Legislative Assembly Secretariat, $5,630,000

MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (10.01): Mr Speaker, I propose to take this opportunity to comment on the Government's response to the Select Committee on Estimates for 1996-97. I want to get my comments in relation to that over with at this point and then we can get on with the rest of it in a different way.

Mr Speaker, the Estimates Committee report is the culmination of an intense scrutiny of the detail of expenditure proposed in the annual Appropriation Bill, and it is an integral part of the Government's accountability to the Assembly and the ACT community. I think it is right to say that the report is a fair representation of the issues discussed in the Estimates Committee hearings, and it is a fair representation of the concerns that many in the Assembly have with this Government's budget. The recommendations, I believe, are responsible and constructive, and they were designed to ensure that the budget papers and reporting by agencies are of better quality next year.

The Government's response to the Estimates Committee report could only be described as disappointing.

Mrs Carnell: We agreed.

MR WHITECROSS: Mrs Carnell took much pleasure - indeed, she has done so again - in saying that the Government had accepted all but one of the recommendations, but this statement is qualified in the detail of the response, Mr Speaker. The Government has agreed to some recommendations, noted some and agreed in principle to some. Mr Speaker, it might also be said that the Government's response to the Estimates Committee report is characteristic of its response to Assembly committee reports in general, which is one of flippancy, contempt and disrespect for the committee process. Its response to the Estimates Committee report is no different - both its response in the media, in public, and its written response introduced into the Assembly this week. The Government has a flippant attitude to the Assembly committee process, a process which it is only too happy to trumpet about when it is trying to put on the cloak of openness and consultancy, but only too happy to shed when a committee comes up with a critical comment about its performance.

Mr Speaker, even more surprising, perhaps, than the general attitude is the one recommendation to which the Government has chosen not to agree. The one recommendation that the Government has identified as unacceptable relates to the inclusion of accommodation and rental costs in the budget papers. I am, quite frankly, at a loss to understand how the Government could possibly have come up with this response. This Government has been trumpeting loud and long about the benefits of accrual accounting. We have heard the rhetoric of Mrs Carnell - that all the costs associated with the delivery of a service will be counted in the delivery of a service;

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