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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3038 ..

MR BERRY (11.07): The speech we have just heard from Mr Humphries puts the lie to the mantra from this Government about wanting to be open and accountable or, indeed, pretending to be open and accountable. It seems that Mr Humphries relies mostly on the additional cost of the exercise which is proposed by this amendment to the principal Act and he sets it at about $100,000. One would think that the Treasurer would provide the figures for a complete expose of those additional costs, but he was not able to do so in the course of the debate. I wonder how much it has cost in the past for the Government's favourite parts of various budget papers to be included. I will bet that there has not been much concern about that.

I think it is important for members to consider how useful are the budget papers - that is really what it boils down to - and how much more useful they would be with this additional information. What Mr Humphries said was code for saying, "We do not want to expose ourselves any more". All the Government will have to do, of course, is extrapolate a further quarter on information that it has already collected. There is nothing secretive about that. I refer to the performance report for the December quarter 1998-99 of the Chief Minister's Department, which, in a summary of the performance on major outputs, provides the background information that one could use in this extrapolation.

Mr Humphries drew attention to the fact that this proposal was a recommendation of the Estimates Committee. It was a sensible recommendation, based on the understanding that the departments could quite easily provide this sort of information. The additional information which is called for in the amendment to the principal Act proposed by Mr Quinlan is being sought merely to make this Government more open and accountable. It is being sought to make its budgets more open and accountable. Those of us who have been here over a period of time would know that there has rarely, if ever, been a budget that was immediately comparable with the previous one. It seems that at hand is a bunch of people in Treasury who work to make it more difficult to compare them. It has never seemed to me to be the intent of Treasury officials to make these budgets more open.

This proposal is a genuine attempt to make budgets more open and accountable. Mr Humphries' response, of course, is a pleading not to expose the Government further in relation to this budget material. We always ask ourselves how useful are the budget papers, how they immediately represent the Government's performance on the previous budget and how the budget which is being put forward will deliver for the community. Quite often, the confusing matrix of figures which is put forward by Treasury in the budget papers does not mean a lot to the ordinary punter in the street. But the outputs mean a lot to them and the people in this place who are considering what, essentially, is a draft budget.

Let us put aside the nonsense about this being the first time that there has ever been a draft budget. In the past, each budget was, potentially, a draft budget, because if the message went through to the Executive that it was not going to be passed they would soon change it, as they have in the past; so let us not claim that there is something new and innovative about the approach which is being taken on this matter.

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