Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1682 ..
MR WOOD (5.53): Mr Speaker, as I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill, I am acutely aware of the fact that you might pull me into order.
MR SPEAKER: If you stray from the Chief Minister's Department, I will.
MR WOOD: Mr Speaker, I am going to talk about something that is not in the Appropriation Bill, and that is the $1.6m that was taken from the Institute of the Arts. It is just not there. I recall those naive days of mine when I was a Minister sitting on the other side of the house. Come budget time, we would put out our media statements, proudly proclaiming the good things we were doing - and there were many of them - but do you know what else we did, not just me but my colleagues too, Wayne Berry and others? We would put out media statements saying where there were cuts to the budget. I have a big pile of media statements here that the Government put out recently. There is not one negative in them. There is not one statement anywhere in them that says where the money is going to be reduced. We know that in a budget that is inevitable. That happens. We did it, but we also told people that we were doing it. We did not run spurious lines. We did not run a $10m insurance levy as a separate issue, as though it was not slugging the ACT taxpayer.
The $1.6m went. We have had the debate on that. I am not going to retrace all those steps. The debate was lost, unfortunately. We await the announcement from the Chief Minister, if there is to be one, about what the institute may have returned to it by way of new agreements that might be made. I would urge the Chief Minister to do that as rapidly as she possibly can, because there are budgetary implications at the institute. They need to know where they are going as they make the fairly dramatic adjustments that might be necessary.
It is the Opposition's intention to vote no to this line, and to do so quite fiercely. I believe it is possible for the Assembly to join with us and vote no and vote this line down and require the Chief Minister to go back and reconsider. We have not proposed an increase in the line, but it is perfectly possible for the Chief Minister to go away and reapportion the money within this budget to find $1.6m for the Institute of the Arts. It is quite possible for that to happen. That would not see a collapse of the Government. It would not see a catastrophic change, although I would not mind that, to the Government. This Assembly, by a majority voting no, could send a strong message to the Chief Minister. Unfortunately, the facts are clear. That will not happen. We will not carry that vote. Having read the debate and the legal advice from two earlier occasions when the attacks were made on the budget in an effort to change the budget, I know that it is entirely possible to do that without the Government having to fall. The Government need only go away and consider how it allocates its money within that area.
I want to restress briefly the importance of the Institute of the Arts as an institution which has an important community function beyond the tertiary education role. I suspect there was some dispute about this, and it seems to be the area that the institute is now having to quantify. It does have a significant effective role, one that I think is very clear to see.