Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1497 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The other very significant first-time achievement for this committee process was the calling of witnesses from the community. I think that Mr Berry is to be commended for that action, as are the rest of the members of the committee for endorsing it. For the first time, members of the public were able to come into this place and directly present evidence on how the budget was going to affect them. In terms of making the Assembly a more responsive and open institution, allowing citizens to come forward and present evidence on how the budget would affect them was a very positive move. Mr Berry is to be commended for initiating that. I hope that future committees look at that process very carefully, because it is one that I believe should be repeated. Who would forget the strong evidence presented by the people from the Institute of the Arts when they clearly demonstrated the overwhelmingly negative impact that the arbitrary decision taken in the budget by the Chief Minister would have on their institution and the groups that it supports? Who would forget the disgraceful behaviour of Mr Hird? That is no reflection on you, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, but who would forget that? Quite frankly, it showed up how important it was to allow public scrutiny of our processes.
Lots of other useful things came from that public submission process. For instance, evidence was presented from the Motorcycle Riders Association. We had in this budget an argument presented by the Government that the increase in registration fees was an environmental measure that punished people who drove larger cars which caused more damage on our roads and which contributed to higher greenhouse gas emissions. The Motorcycle Riders Association was able to present to us that motorcycle riders had had a disproportionate increase in their registration fee despite the fact that they caused the least damage on our roads and the least output of greenhouse gas emissions. On that point alone, Mr Berry is vindicated in allowing community groups to have their say in submissions to the Estimates Committee.
I found the Estimates Committee process a very valuable way to highlight the wrong priorities of this Government, where they were spending money inappropriately, where their administration was wasteful and where their priorities were misdirected. I must say that it is not the role of the Estimates Committee to determine the budget. It is the role of the Estimates Committee to say what we think the priorities should be and where the Government needs to direct its energies in addressing and fixing those priorities. The overall management of the budget is not the role of the committee and it is not the role of this Assembly. It is the role of the Executive, and that is why the recommendations are very specific in a whole range of areas. I commend this report to the Assembly. It is a strong report. If the Government is uncomfortable with it, it is because they got shown up for all of the failings that are presented in the report.
MR QUINLAN (4.57): I attended a fair number of the Estimates Committee hearings and I found them very useful. I gleaned some information, encountered some blatant resistance and gained a greater insight into how the Government works, particularly with its administration. I must say that since I came to the Assembly there has been one surprise. That is the difficulty in getting information and the obstacles one has to overcome. I commend the expansive approach taken by the committee, including its chairman, and its transient members. It is one of the few avenues we have had to obtain a knowledge and understanding of how the Government is working with its administration.