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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3045 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

for a minute that that is correct. I am sure that, as a general thing, the government of the day has nothing to hide particularly. Generally speaking, they have something to hide specifically. I can say that it is dead easy to do that; you can easily hide that in the budget papers anywhere you like.

The only reason I can think of for this Government's opposition to having comparative data in the budget papers relating to outputs and outcomes, as well as financial expenditure, is that they have something to hide in a global sense, that they are incompetent themselves because they cannot read their own financial information, that they do not have faith in their own financial management systems, such as Oracle, or that they are just being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

Mr Speaker, I would urge members of this Assembly to support Mr Quinlan's Bill. I do not perceive it as an attack on the Government. It is merely a measure for saying, "Let us get a few things out in the open. Let us take a couple of issues off the battlefield and let us allow members of this Assembly to discharge the duties that we were all elected to discharge".

MS TUCKER (11.36): The Greens will be supporting this Bill. The budget papers, by their nature, can be difficult to understand and it is important that as much meaningful information as practicable be provided within the papers so that members can give the budget the close scrutiny it deserves. Mr Quinlan's Bill seeks to implement a recommendation of the last Estimates Committee. Having been on a number of estimates committees, I know what a frustrating process it can be when you attempt to compare expenditure in the proposed budget with that of the previous financial year. That is further complicated by the fact that the outputs and expenditure listed in the previous year's budget are not necessarily what we end up with at the end of that financial year.

Mr Quinlan's proposal that the departmental output statements include expected end - of - year results would provide greater transparency to the budget and, hopefully, make the Estimates Committee process easier in future years. I recognise that these end-of-year results will be only a prediction, but they are better than there being no information at all. I also believe that it is better for members to have all this information together in one place. Mr Smyth said that we can find it. There is a lot of information that we can find, but the workload that we have as members of this place, particularly members of the crossbench, means that it is not always possible to find it and it is important that the Government facilitate in any way that it can the opportunity for crossbench members to access information. That is the basis of this request.

I note that the budget papers for 1997-98, the year after the budget was first produced using accrual accounting, did include projected outcomes for 1996-97 as well as the 1996-97 targets from the previous budget. That appears to be what Mr Quinlan is calling for. The projected outcomes column has been dropped in later budgets. That shows, however, that it is possible to include projected outcomes in the budget papers if the Government is committed to it. I understand that most of this information is already gathered within departments as part of the monitoring of their activities over the year. I accept that there will be some cost in bringing this information together in the budget papers, but I think it is worth it.

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