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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (20 April) . . Page.. 955 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

I agree with virtually all of the committee's recommendations, although some are of more interest to me than others, and I would like to go through some of the committee's findings that have attracted my attention. I note the committee's comment that there are inconsistent levels of justification for projects across departments and even within departments. At the worst end of the scale is money set aside for projects like the prison before there is agreement on how and where this project will proceed. There are also projects like the transfer of the Crafts Council to the old Ainslie school, where a political decision has been made to proceed, without any feasibility study of whether this expenditure is justified. On the other hand, there are projects that the Government has made election promises about, such as the Belconnen pool, but where the actual expenditure keeps getting put off. There also seem to be a number of projects that are each classified as minor works but when put together constitute a bigger project that requires a greater level of justification.

There are also projects like Civic Square where money is going to be expended to fix up the bad design of the previous capital works in this location. That has already been raised by other members. Mr Rugendyke and Mr Corbell have raised concerns about that. I do not know whether Mr Corbell realises that there was a consultation process which preceded the original revamping of the square at which it was said that we need soft spaces. So Mr Hird's claim today that the Government listens so carefully and seriously to the community is not borne out by this particular fiasco in Civic Square, because it was quite clear that people wanted it to be much more friendly and softer than it ended up. Maybe it is a sort of job creation scheme because what you do is do it badly; then you dig it up and you do it again. So we are creating jobs at least.

I am also concerned that, as part of the Government's pursuit of the purchase-provider model, expertise on the technical and cost aspects of proposed capital works has been moved out of the core departments. I agree with the committee that it is imperative that a way be found to bring this expertise back into the Public Service so that development of capital works proposals can be undertaken more rigorously and accurately. There is also a need to bring together consideration of the initial costs of new capital works and the need to budget for ongoing maintenance costs.

These examples point to the urgent need for a more objective and transparent process for determining priorities for capital works projects which is based on forward planning of what needs are arising across all sectors of the ACT and how they can be best met.

There is also the general issue that there are a number of instances where money has been allocated in one financial year but has not been expended until following years. This is creating quite a backlog of work, which raises questions about whether the Government has a real commitment to those projects. One example the committee noted was funding for Decade of Landcare projects, which has continually slipped back over a number of years. The delays in spending Decade of Landcare money and other money for land rehabilitation was raised in the previous Assembly by my former colleague Lucy Horodny, and I am glad that this issue is now getting wider attention.

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