Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1495 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
I will quickly take up where I left off, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. The Estimates Committee investigates the important matter of the expenditure of taxpayers' money. Mr Stanhope earlier raised the importance of competition policy. The Department of Urban Services has responsibility for so many areas of industry regulation and government business, things like milk, electricity, gas and water, all of which are issues that have been canvassed since I came here. Yet when we got to outputs for the Department of Urban Services there was not a single question, not one, about how we were going to address those, what the budget implications were and where information on them was contained in the budget. I think that shows you quite clearly the farce that the Estimates Committee was under the current chairman.
The report does not address any key budget issues at all. It recommends nothing but populist spending measures and tax-cutting measures. I remind all here that Mr Hughes, who was a consultant to the Opposition during the budget process, said that those who would suggest amendments to the budget should come up with options. Yet all we have heard from the Labor Party, through the chairman of the committee, is: "Let us stop raising revenue and let us suggest increased expenditure, but we do not have to tell you how it should be funded, because we are not the Government".
We see the mask of cooperation slipping. On the very first day of sitting of this Assembly Mr Stanhope spoke about how we were going to work together and how the new face of Labor would be a cooperative one. Yet all we simply get is more of the same. If they do not have to give any idea at all of where the money should come from, it is very easy for them to say, "Yes, we will stop revenue raising and yes, we will increase expenditure because that is easy and it is popular". I think Mr Rugendyke got it quite right. This year the Estimates Committee was just a farce.
MR CORBELL (4.47): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, it seems that the Government do not understand that the budget is the instrument of government policy; it is where you spend the money that affects what your policy priorities are. For the Government to stand up in this place and suggest that it is inappropriate for the Estimates Committee to question government policy clearly demonstrates that they are not prepared to accept the budget as the instrument that implements the Government's legislative and other policy programs. That is exactly what the budget does. The budget is the tool that the Government uses to implement its policy priorities. I do not resile for one moment, nor should any other member of the Estimates Committee, from questioning the policy priorities of this Government. That is exactly what the Estimates Committee did.
Members on the other side of the house should consider that we have a report here with over 50 recommendations, all of which were accepted by all members, with the exception of Mr Hird. Mr Hird put in a significant dissenting report, as is his right. When those on that side of the house decide they are going to bash Mr Berry over the head because he was chairing the Estimates Committee, they should think about who else they are bashing. They are also bashing the other three members of that committee, including two members of the crossbenches who accepted those recommendations. They have no credibility - - -