Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1838 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
We have seen in recent times the reaction against the insurance levy. We have just had a debate on Floriade which, if nothing else, demonstrated that the Government is making the decisions first and then finding out how it is going to implement them. We have seen the "Feel the Power" slogan removed from numberplates because the market was not tested. People's reaction was not tested or predicted. We have been put to the expense of de-tooling on that process because the Government did not think through what it was doing in the first place. If nothing else comes out of this budget overall in respect of some of the examples that Mr Hargreaves has just brought up, I think the Government needs to take a good cold look at itself in relation to thinking through the ramifications and the impact of what it is doing.
MR CORBELL (8.31): Mr Speaker, the Department of Urban Services has a very significant appropriation and it has an enormous number of activities within it. I would like to focus this evening on activities particularly, but not exclusively, in the area of Environment ACT and the Planning and Land Management area of the department.
During the Estimates Committee process we were able to undertake quite extensive questioning of this department. From my recollection, it took a number of hearings to complete the examination. I must admit that the evidence that we were able to get in those hearings was of great concern, certainly to me and to a number of my colleagues on the committee.
The first issue I want to raise, Mr Speaker, is the review that we discovered was occurring within the Planning and Land Management Group. Questioning during the Estimates Committee hearings revealed that the Government is undertaking a review of the operations of PALM. This review is being headed up by senior officers within the ACT government service, including the chief executive of the Chief Minister's Department, the chief executive of the Department of Urban Services, the Under Treasurer, and, I understand, the executive director of PALM. I also understand that an independent consultant, whatever that means, is involved in this examination.
I am concerned, Mr Speaker, that what we are seeing through this process is a diminution of the powers and the effectiveness of PALM to adequately plan for our city. What is most concerning about it is that, unless we had been fortunate enough to have been advised indirectly that this was occurring, there would have been no way of finding out in the budget papers that this process was being undertaken by PALM, or by the Department of Urban Services, to be more accurate. I would have thought that a review which is looking at significant restructuring of PALM - that is my understanding of what it is doing - including looking for savings of around a million dollars within the Planning and Land Management Group, would have been included in the budget papers and we would, at least, have been able to track it down through the budget papers. But neither of those things was the case. We were not able to find that information.
Mr Speaker, the Estimates Committee report made a recommendation and we sought the Government's assurance that the current arrangements within PALM in no way reduce the capacity of PALM to contribute to effective ACT planning. The Government notionally agreed and said that there has been - I note the words "has been" - no diminution in the role of PALM. That is not really an assurance, Mr Speaker.