Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1697 ..
Part 5 - Government Asset Management
Proposed expenditure - Government Asset Management, $16,801,000 (comprising net costs of outputs, $1,625,000; and capital injection, $15,176,000)
MR CORBELL (8.55): Mr Speaker, this is the first budget in which we have had to consider an appropriation for the Office of Asset Management, it only being established in the latest round of administrative arrangements announced by the Government earlier this year. The Labor Party and the Labor Opposition have concerns about the establishment of the Office of Asset Management. We believe that the establishment of this office has centralised some very important elements, particularly in relation to land allocation, in the hands of the Chief Minister, and we are concerned that this function has been removed from the Planning and Land Management Group of the Department of Urban Services. Quite obviously, land allocation is a sensitive issue, and it is one that must be addressed appropriately. It is an issue which must be addressed with caution because when we are dealing with assets worth many millions of dollars to the Territory, when we are dealing with land, for instance, we want to make sure that decisions are being made on an appropriate basis.
Mr Speaker, it would perhaps be too cynical to suggest that the Office of Asset Management was established in the wake of the failed Hall/Kinlyside land deal. As has been revealed in estimates and in other areas, the proposal to grant land to Mr Derek Whitcombe was made entirely without any knowledge of the Planning and Land Management Group. Perhaps this says a lot about the Government's thinking behind its establishment of the Office of Asset Management. Mr Speaker, this is one of the most significant appropriation units in the Chief Minister's Department. The Office of Asset Management deals not only with land allocation but also with the management of a range of government assets. These assets total many millions of dollars.
I think there is a serious problem with shifting control over allocation of land to the Chief Minister's Department. First of all, we have seen the problems associated with a breakdown in communication between the Chief Minister's Department and the Planning and Land Management Group on issues to do with the development of a rural-residential estate at Hall. We have seen decisions made whereby Cabinet proceeded to enter into a preliminary arrangement with a particular developer to establish a rural-residential estate at Hall, but, even as late as April this year, a full four months after the Cabinet decision, Planning and Land Management still were officially unaware that a decision had been taken. What we are seeing here is a formalisation of that distinction between the Chief Minister's Department and the Planning and Land Management Group. I, for one, feel that it is an unnecessary allocation of responsibilities to put in the hands of the Chief Minister what could be perceived as a political gift. This issue is, I believe, a very important one.
I note, Mr Speaker, that in the Office of Asset Management there have been proposals to develop a land account. This is in response to recommendations in the Stein report. This is a positive development in itself in that at last the Government is recognising the importance of a land account to accurately assess the value of the assets held by the Territory when making decisions, for instance, about the development of land.