Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1499 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
I wish to address myself to Mr Rugendyke's comments that the estimates process is a farce. Mr Rugendyke was part of the committee. As far as I know, he endorsed the report. He did not submit a dissenting report, so I remain astounded. I commend Mr Rugendyke for starting out in this Assembly as he is meant to continue - with a great fanfare, a coloured photo on a front-page article about circus animals and a backflip, dollar charges on police searches and a backflip - - -
Mr Humphries: Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, colourful as circus animals might be, they are not relevant to any matter that was before the Estimates Committee. Mr Quinlan is straying into no doubt more interesting but somewhat irrelevant territory.
MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mr Quinlan, I would ask you to remain relevant to the matter before the Chair.
MR QUINLAN: Mr Speaker, I am addressing matters that have been raised and condoned by the Speaker himself in the course of this debate.
Mr Humphries: But they are not relevant.
MR QUINLAN: They are relevant to the claim that this process was a farce. There is a member of the committee who had an opportunity to put in a dissenting report and who is starting to get known for backflips. This is just another, as was his approach to the Institute of the Arts.
I would like to make some comments in relation to the format and presentation of the budget and the issue of comparability from one budget to another. The introduction of a new section to show budget neutral changes resulting from Administrative Arrangement Orders is welcomed. However, the only financial statements that show some degree of direct comparability are those of Health and those of Urban Services. This lack of transparency is not acceptable. I am sure we will hear some rhetoric about the ACT having the highest level of transparency in Australia. Nevertheless, there are shifting sands and constant changes to Administrative Arrangement Orders and no facility for anybody other than the Office of Financial Management to make reasonable comparisons between this year and last year and discern exactly what the budget is doing to the ACT.
We would like, and expect, the Government to take this problem seriously. We would like to see it as a goal of the Government to make sure that the budget is so framed as to allow us to make intertemporal comparisons of the figures contained therein. I strongly support recommendation 3 of the committee that any budgetary changes that are to be made be released prior to the budget. Any particular presentation changes or any accounting-style changes that are being brought into the budget should be made public before the budget is brought down, so that people are warned and people know how to approach the budget. I strongly support the recommendations for changing the budget structure, not the concepts - the concepts are quite good - to allow comparability and testability of the numbers that are presented.