Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (30 June) . . Page.. 1832 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
the case that the government had acted illegally, but if there was some illegality involved then obviously that would provide greater weight to not having confidence in their ability to govern.
There is also the question of how accountable Ministers should be for the actions of their departments. It would be reasonable for a Minister not to take responsibility for the actions of an individual in their department who intentionally broke departmental rules or policies. In this case, the individual officer would be personally guilty of misconduct. However, I believe that a Minister must take responsibility for actions within their department where departmental officers have acted under the directions of policies of the Minister.
A Minister cannot just say that it is their department's fault. They are the ultimate heads of their departments and have the responsibility for providing direction to their departments on how they want government policy implemented. Even though a Minister may not directly supervise the staff within the department, they are responsible for establishing the management structures through which departmental actions are taken. In applying these principles to the Bruce Stadium issue, it becomes quite clear that the Government has violated the confidence that this Assembly has placed in the management of the ACT's finances.
I note that Mr Osborne believes that we should wait until the Auditor-General has finished his report in September or October. But I believe that there is already sufficient evidence to damn this Government. We already have three separate legal opinions, with various supporting documents. There is all the material that came out of the Estimates Committee's hearings. The Auditor-General has also made comments already about the Government's actions, through the Estimates Committee and through other documents that have been given to Assembly members.
The Auditor-General's report may be useful in bringing all this information together, and for the Auditor to provide his opinion on all aspects of the affair, but my view is that it can only provide even more damning evidence than we have now. The fact that the Government spent $9.7m of public money in 1997-98 on the redevelopment of the Bruce Stadium without appropriation is quite clear. It is also quite clear that all three legal opinions agree that this spending was illegal. All the legal opinions state that the requirement that the expenditure of public money be authorised by legislative appropriation has been a feature of the Westminster model of government for about 300 years and is enshrined in the self-government legislation and also the Financial Management Act. Government actions that break this tradition cannot be treated lightly, as this would be downgrading a key feature of our democratic system.
The Chief Minister tried to get out of this misappropriation by saying that the net appropriation was still going to be $12.3m. As long as the books balanced at the end of the project, then it was okay to overspend now. However, her faith that the private sector was going to rush in and invest in this stadium has been very misplaced. The original expectation of attendances and revenue from events at the stadium has been greatly overstated, and there was no guarantee that the overexpenditure of public money on the stadium would ever be recovered.