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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2776 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

overall picture and not only to give a report in connection with the reports that fall within the ambit of the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee but also to give a much broader report on the whole performance of the Government in the financial sense.

Every parliament in Australia essentially has a public accounts committee. Ours has been in place ever since this house was established in 1989. A move such as this to break down the function that is properly that of a public accounts committee, I think, is something that we need to be vigilant about. The PAC still has a role, by definition, and I believe that the PAC will still continue to perform that role, regardless of what the other portfolio committees do.

MS TUCKER (11.14): This motion raises the issue of what is the best committee process for dealing with both budget papers and annual reports. As members are aware, the Greens' policy on the budget process is that there should be an ongoing budget accountability committee which would operate on an annual cycle, firstly, in the development of next year's budget through discussion of budget priorities and reviewing draft budgets. The committee would then publicly examine the budget that is tabled and review the annual reports to see whether agencies performed as was projected in the previous year's budget.

I have therefore not supported the call that has been raised by the Government in the past for the abandonment of the Estimates Committee process and just referring different budget papers to the relevant portfolio committee. There is great value in having the Estimates Committee look at the budget as a whole in order to review the overall strategy of the Government and the balance of priorities and funding between the different sectors of government. However, I note that the Select Committee on the Report of the Review of Governance agreed with the Pettit review that it would be appropriate for the performance of individual agencies to be assessed by the portfolio committees through inquiries into annual reports.

I can see that there could be some value in the portfolio committees looking in detail at the annual reports relevant to their portfolios. The committees obviously would have developed some expertise and knowledge in the area and they would be able to focus on problems in the portfolio area more quickly than an Estimates Committee having to go through all the annual reports in a rather fast and sometimes superficial manner. I am concerned, though, that what you are losing with this arrangements is the ability for members who have an interest across all portfolios to become involved in discussions. Obviously they could still attend meetings but they could not be part of the deliberative discussions.

However, as I said, I am prepared to support this motion, because I do not think Assembly processes should be fixed in concrete. It will be interesting to see how this works. I am prepared to support this motion for a year as a trial to see how it works. I intended to put up an amendment which is almost identical to Mr Kaine's. I will not move it unless members have a problem with his reporting date. I was going to suggest that we delete the date in the first paragraph of the motion and just say "to the relevant standing committee for inquiry and report" without a date. I have conferred with my

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