Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1494 ..
Report on the Appropriation Bill 1998-99
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (4.39): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I think what the report from the Estimates Committee shows is that we now have a new low standard set for committee reports from this Assembly. I have seen many estimates done at the Federal level. This is the first that I have been personally involved in at the Assembly level. When the committee has come up with a report that is actually three reports and the chairman has dissented from his own report, it strikes me that there was terrible mismanagement in this whole process. Instead of having an Estimates Committee look at the forward spending of the Government to ensure that the ratepayers' money was spent appropriately and on matters of concern, we had a mini, week-long extension of question time. Instead of looking at the estimates, instead of going to the budget, we spent much of our time on non-budget matters like Kinlyside, the plane and many others. The Estimates Committee process is meant to be a proper examination of the Government's finances. To allow it to descend to the low level that it did, the chairman created a precedent that very few of us would like to follow. I think Mr Rugendyke got it quite correct the other day when he called the whole thing a total farce.
It not only did not get to the question of what the Government was doing with taxpayers' money; it was a monumental waste of taxpayers' time and taxpayers' money. The officers from PALM, Planning and Land Management, in my department had to come back to the Assembly on three occasions. That senior executives and officers should be called to the Assembly is appropriate. That they should be called three times to sit around waiting to be questioned supposedly on the budget and not have that occur I think is quite shameful. You have to ask: How can you claim to represent the community through the Estimates Committee when you have no interest in how the taxpayers' money is being spent?
I have a whole list here. It is an absolute mystery to me but I will go to something that Mr Stanhope said earlier today. Mr Stanhope, in responding to the Chief Minister's proposal on what we do with competition policy, said that competition policy was important, was of interest to all of us, had great effect and was arousing great concerns in the community. In the Department of Urban Services budget, under some of the outputs that I control, we look at industry regulation and how the Government conducts business. This of course is getting very close to the heart of some of the competition policy issues. I certainly expected, and I told my senior officers to expect, and to be prepared for, questions on very important issues like the reform of the milk industry, electricity, gas and water regulation. Yet, when we got to that section in the Urban Services budget, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I am sure you will be stunned to know the overwhelming number of questions that we got on these issues that, according to Mr Stanhope just half an hour ago - - - ((Quorum formed)