Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (20 April) . . Page.. 957 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
With regard to the backlog in capital works programs from year to year, that is something that we have significantly improved on over the term of this Government. It is still bigger than I would like it to be, Mr Speaker, but it is nothing like it was when we came to government when we were finding that anything up to two-thirds of the capital works budget was being rolled over. So the process has improved quite significantly and it will continue to improve.
With regard to timeframes for the committee, this is something that I simply will not accept, Mr Speaker. I offered this report to the committee at least two weeks before they got it and was given the answer: "Look, sorry, but members of the committee are on holidays". I think that that criticism is simply unfair, inasmuch as the Government was more than happy to make the capital works program available early. It is not the Government's fault that the committee was not ready to accept it.
Another issue that I find a little bemusing too is the lack of consistency through some of the report. I heard members make comments today about the Belconnen pool and the Ainslie Public School. I have heard comments such as: "Shock, horror, the Ainslie Public School; expenditure of $250,000 is made without a business case or feasibility study", but the Government should immediately go ahead with a project potentially costing up to $15m, the Belconnen pool, for which there is no feasibility study or a business case.
If on one side it is absolutely essential to stop the Ainslie Public School refurbishment because there is no feasibility study and business case, how on earth can the same committee suggest we immediately go ahead with a pool that has no business case and feasibility study and that could be worth as much as $15m? Mr Speaker, I think this shows a lack of consistency that is quite mind-boggling. Again, it is $250,000 versus potentially $15m. Same situation; the committee comes down in very different ways. Mr Speaker, you would have to assume that the reason for that is obviously some very avid lobbying from some local members with regard to the pool, and I am willing to turn a blind eye to the lack of a business case or feasibility study, and maybe some politics coming into the Ainslie Public School debate.
Mr Speaker, I will make another comment about those two issues mainly because they have been brought up by members today and they are recommendations. They were both government commitments in the last election. Again, the committee says, "You made a commitment, Government; go ahead with the pool". The Government also made a commitment to Ainslie Public School, but on that side they are saying, "Look, Government, you made a commitment, but that doesn't matter this time; don't go ahead". Mr Speaker, some consistency in committee reports is absolutely essential, and you do not see it here. Maybe a little bit of politics is coming to the fore, not necessarily party politics. Maybe electoral politics, and maybe some party politics as well.
One of the things that disappointed me about this report is the committee not coming to grips with what makes a sustainable level of capital works expenditure. Apart from the Ainslie Public School, and that is $250,000 out of a capital works program of up to $90m, so it is a very small amount, nowhere in the report is it suggested that we spend less. In quite a lot of areas in the report it is said that we should spend more.