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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1402 ..

MR KAINE (5.34): I have to say, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, that the Government's response to this motion quite intrigues me. It is obvious that the Government is on the back foot and is trying to explain itself, trying to justify a position which, in my view, is an untenable position. Mr Humphries put forward the hypothesis: "Well, what happens if the classics department at the university comes along and says, `Give us $100,000 and we will tell you how we spent it later'?". That is totally irrelevant; it is a red herring. The reason is that the School of the Arts and the School of Music have been funded in the past by the Government. It is not a new request. This is a continuing requirement of an operating institution.

If the Government have had reservations about this in the past, I would have to ask: Have they ever expressed them? Did they ever go to the Institute of the Arts and the School of Music and say, "We have reservations about continuing to fund you. We think you are not an organisation that we should be funding. Let us talk about that."? It seems to me that nothing of the kind happened.

These institutions have been funded for some years and then, quite out of the blue, almost capriciously, the Government says, "We are going to chop your funding". I would have thought, under the circumstances, that if the Government has some reservations about the amount of money that is going into these institutions, about whether it should go at all, or about what they spend it on, it would say to them, "We want to go through a process of consultation with you to discuss these issues and to reach a conclusion about whether funding should continue, and, if so, at what level". You do not cut the funding first and then say, "Now, we will talk to you; we have cut the funding because you have not met our expectations", when your expectations have not been properly spelt out. That seems to be the situation, as I see it, and I have not heard anything from the Government that indicates otherwise. There has just been, as I say, almost a capricious decision, like so many other budgetary decisions that have been made lately, that means that somebody pays the piper while the Government calls the tune.

Another one that has yet to come up is the arbitrary imposition of a levy on insurance policies. I have seen no argument from the Government that says we needed an extra $10m to put into emergency services, yet they impose an arbitrary levy that is, by their own budget, supposed to bring in $10m. For what? Let us see what the moneys are meant to be spent on. That was another capricious decision by the Government. That one had to do with raising revenue. The one we are talking about here today has to do with the other side of the budget, the spending of money.

I have some sympathy for the position put forward by the Government that an organisation being funded has an obligation to demonstrate that it is providing services that the Government thinks are necessary and, secondly, that they are being delivered at an appropriate standard. But those are things that the Government could get into negotiation on to see whether or not the answer to both those questions is yes. It should not chop the money first and then say, "No, you come back and justify any funding at all". While I see some merit in the argument that is put forward by the Government, that an organisation that is funded by the Government must be accountable for it, I do not agree that the Government can arbitrarily chop the funding because the Government has changed the ground rules. That is not acceptable and not appropriate.

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