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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1844 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

The answer ended there. This again was in response to a question from Mr Osborne when he said:

And someone in PALM realised that the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister were saying the wrong word ...

I will turn over to the next page. Mr Osborne was again involved in questions to Mr Gilmour about blocks and leases, and Mr Gilmour said:

I certainly made him generally aware, remember that he came into this process fairly late in the piece, of the general matters related to the Hall Kinlyside issue, our involvement, and the issues that were there.

Getting to the specifics became tortuous and this went on for seven or eight pages while Mr Gilmour quite skilfully avoided answering the questions which were being put to him by committee members. Some of those members have complained to me about this. I merely rose to my feet to ensure that the Minister has it crystal clear in his mind that this sort of performance ought not to have been tolerated by him and that he, as the Minister, ought to remind his officers that they are obliged to answer questions openly and appropriately for the committee to ensure that it is able to complete its scrutiny process.

I am not going to go all the way through this, but it just became so tediously obvious that the senior officer was not going to be of assistance to the committee. All of the members who were at the committee found it frustrating and difficult. Mr Stanhope tried to get answers. Mr Osborne tried to get answers. Ms Tucker tried to get answers. People should be aware that committee members involved in this process found this intolerable and they are examining ways and means to ensure that it does not happen again.

MR CORBELL (8.55): I would like to resume my comments on the Department of Urban Services appropriation. Environment ACT, as I was saying earlier, was one of the most interesting areas of the Estimates Committee's scrutiny process. As Ms Tucker alluded to earlier, there were particular concerns raised about the development of the new Visitor Information Centre at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. It became quite apparent that the Government had taken the interesting decision to loan money to Environment ACT for the development of that visitors centre. Concern was raised by a number of members of the Estimates Committee that this could have a potential impact on the budget of Environment ACT in its running of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve because, instead of being funded as a capital works project, it was funded through a loan, effectively, from the Office of Financial Management, with interest accruing on the loan which will have to be paid along with the original loan amount by Environment ACT.

We saw a much greater decrease in visitor numbers to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve than had been anticipated by the Government. The Government assumed, on a worst-case scenario, about a 30 per cent reduction in visitor numbers. We saw a significantly higher reduction than that at Tidbinbilla during the last financial year. The Government and the officials from Environment ACT responded by saying it was due to the number of complete fire ban days and the fact that the reserve closed during those days.

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