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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 4047 ..

MR WHITECROSS (continuing):

yet a significant cost item, namely accommodation, is simply going to be ignored in the accounts. Mr Speaker, I really am at a loss to understand why. I know that it will come as news to Mr Nicholson of the Canberra Times that the Government does not think that accommodation should be included in the accounts.

Mrs Carnell: It is in the accounts. It is in there.

MR WHITECROSS: It is not in there. No, it is not, Mrs Carnell.

Mrs Carnell: It is in there as part of the output.

MR WHITECROSS: No, Mrs Carnell, it is not. Mr Speaker, Brendan Nicholson, on 9 November, wrote:

It is intended to ensure that the true financial price of providing all government services is provided in great detail by including costs that were previously disregarded as being simply part of a public infrastructure with no book value.

The cost of having your tonsils out will now, for instance, include a share of the estimated cost of renting or erecting the hospital building in which the operation takes place. The intention is to provide a much truer cost of providing each service ...

That is what Brendan Nicholson thinks is going to happen; but the Government says, "No, that is an input and we are not going to include the cost of inputs in the budget papers". Mr Speaker, that is simply nonsensical. If you are to compare the costs of inputs produced by an agency in rental accommodation and the costs of inputs of an agency producing the outputs operating out of government-owned premises, then surely you have to have the same basis of comparison, not have these costs included in one and not in another.

Mr Speaker, I was quite surprised in the Estimates Committee that in the transition to accrual accounting this significant cost of doing business is in no way accounted for against individual outputs. I was extremely surprised by that. I am even more surprised that the Government does not think that, in the future, any attempt should be made to do this. Not least among the reasons why I am surprised is that, as I recall, in the hearings there was an indication that this was going to be an issue that would be addressed in the future. So, Mr Speaker, that makes me even more surprised. I think it is quite curious that the Government has adopted the approach that it has in relation to this matter. It is a hidden cost. It is exactly the kind of hidden cost that I would have thought the Government wanted to make explicit in the way that it made superannuation explicit.

Mr Speaker, the Estimates Committee also recommended that more extensive information be provided in the budget papers, such as staffing levels, new initiatives, and the extent to which new initiatives in the previous budget were achieved. The Government said it agreed with that. I thought, "That is good". Then, of course, I got to the fine print, and the fine print says, "Actually, we are not going to do what you asked us to do.

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