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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3051 ..

MR KAINE (11.59): I had not intended initially to speak on this matter because I thought it was a pretty straightforward one. But I am having difficulty. One side of the house is saying, "We want more information", and the other side is saying, "It costs too much and is too difficult to provide". So where do you come down in an argument like that?

I can understand the Government's position. It is true that the provision of information costs money. Producing budgets costs money. Producing quarterly reports costs money. Producing any kind of a financial report costs something. So what do we as an organisation believe is a reasonable cost in order to ensure openness and accountability of government?

I can understand the Government's position. They do not particularly want to be put to the task of having to prepare more information in different formats on the one hand - and they have a point when they say that it costs more money to produce that - but, on the other hand, the role of this place is to ensure openness and accountability on the part of the Government.

When we are asked to make decisions about budgets and other matters up for debate in this place, we should be sufficiently informed to be able to make contributions and come to a reasonable decision. Mr Humphries said - I am paraphrasing - "We are actually getting more information of a budgetary nature than ever before".

I have not attempted to quantify that. He may be right. But more information of itself is of no value unless it is informative. It is a question of the quality of the information provided. I have been a member of estimates committees, off and on, for 10 years now in the life of this place. The big difficulty for estimates committees has always been that you do not have an ability to compare this year's budget with last year's and see what has happened in the meantime.

The budget format changes. The organisational structure of the Government changes. So you cannot get a direct comparison between an organisational entity last year and an existing organisational entity today. There is always this question: "Do we have enough information to do year-to-year comparisons?".

What Mr Quinlan is seeking is the ability to do that sort of comparison. He is saying that when we look at the budget for 2000-01, starting in January next year, he would like to have some indication of how far the Government has managed to get with implementing this year's budget, because that can have an impact on next year's budget. If they have not achieved their program objectives for this year, then they may have to roll over and become part of the commitment and obligation next year. I understand what Mr Quinlan was seeking. I think I described it reasonably accurately. And I understand the Government's position. Having been in both places, it is a quandary.

Having considered all those matters, Mr Speaker, on balance I have got to conclude - and this may disappoint the Chief Minister - that Mr Quinlan's request for more information, so that we can better assess the Government's performance and its budget for the next fiscal year, that Mr Quinlan's request is reasonable.

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