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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 439 ..



a budget which, in the end, the Government will still frame in its own way. This debate is, to some extent, the "put up or shut up" challenge that it has been described as. Maybe, in the same position, I might even have done the same and pulled the same stunt.

Mr Hird: Oh, never, never.

MR QUINLAN: I would like to match "put up or shut up" with "do the proverbial or get off the pot", Harold.

Mr Hird: A good saying.

MR QUINLAN: Yes. The motion includes reference to the role of the Executive. The ACT, since self-government, has followed very closely the system of government operating through the States, the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory, the Westminster system generally. We have heard it referred to as the Washminster system. A key factor inherent in the Washminster system is that the Government forms a Cabinet of Ministers or an Executive who are fundamentally responsible and accountable to the people who elect them. There are a number of schools of thought on the meaning of responsibility and accountability. The one that strikes me as the most appropriate is that from Hugh Emy and Owen Hughes who have written a foundation text in political studies. They have stated:

Finance is the essential commodity of government; being able to direct the flow of government money is the single difference between government and opposition ... The Budget is a major political document.

This is a political reality, a fact of life, that is taught to first-year university students. It may be textbook theory, but let us have a little confirmation from the Department of Finance which stated, quite a number of years ago:

Because all the possible, individually justifiable, claims on Government cannot reasonably be met in any given period, the Government must be ready to establish budgetary priorities in the light of its policies.

A basic understanding of the political system tells us that governments are formed and broken on the basis of the policies they set, including, but not limited solely to, how they set their budget. I might return to their performance against budgets shortly.

The principle of the accountability of government is underscored by John Warhurst, an influential Australian political theorist and a regular writer in our local Canberra Times. He asserts:

Ministers are responsible to parliament for the actions of their departments. They act as the link between the administration and the parliament, to ensure that there is a line of accountability for all the actions of the executive.

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