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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3046 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

I can see a complication, however, in what Mr Quinlan is proposing, with moves by the Government to introduce a draft budget in January. Obviously, there is little point in providing projected outcomes so early in the financial year for the draft budget. But I think there is still value in providing these projected outcomes in the final budget when it is tabled in May so that the information is available for the Estimates Committee. Overall, I think the Bill is improving government accountability and deserves support.

I noted that Mr Humphries made the claim we often hear from the Government that never has there been as much information produced or provided in this place as there has been since they introduced accrual accounting. I think it is important to note that not all economic commentators agree with that particular point of view. I think it is about time it was challenged in this place. I have challenged it consistently on the ground that it does not take into account, once again, what are seen as externalities in this accounting system, that is, the social and environmental liabilities that we are accruing and those aspects of broader social policy, quality and so on which are so critical to good governance.

I would like to quote a comment by Kenneth Davidson of the Age newspaper. He said:

There is nothing in this reform program designed to show whether the government is creating a fairer society, or any recognition that the way government outlays are structured affects economic growth. The focus is on efficiency - narrowly defined. The relationship between how taxes are spent and the impact of those expenditures on resource allocation, income distribution and the growth of the whole economy, is ignored in favour of an obsession with private sector benchmarking which can be relevant to the operations of GBEs, but is rarely relevant to the operations and objectives of general government.

I will also quote a comment on accrual accounting by Ronald Ma and Russell Matthews in the Australian Journal of Corporate Law in January 1993:

For example, the use of an accrual accounting operating statement to measure departmental performance and the relegation of program-based or activity-based reports to notes in the accounts will place greater emphasis on irrelevant aspects of performance and a lesser emphasis on effectiveness of service delivery.

They wrote that an accounting system is not a value-free system and that the rules and practices of an accounting system reflect a particular world view. Obviously, the Greens have put a different world view consistently since we have been in this Assembly. We must remind each other in this place that an accounting system is not value free. The Government needs to start addressing this issue, instead of coming out with the rhetoric about accrual accounting which has been challenged here over the years.

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