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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4067 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

be precluded from ex-post criticism of the budget because they had an opportunity. These committees are, in fact, diluted in terms of political philosophy or party representation anyway.

It seems to me that this proposal arises out of a desire by the Government to cramp the estimates process, which is, in fact, one of the pillars of the Westminster system that we operate here and provides for maximum scrutiny of what the Government is doing. I will refer to a couple of quotes that I used previously on this topic or a similar topic. The first quote, from Emy and Hughes, is this:

Finance is the essential commodity of government. Being able to direct the flow of government money is the single difference between government and opposition. The budget is a major political document.

And so it ought be. The second quote I want to give says this:

Because all the possible individually justifiable claims on government cannot reasonably be met in any given period, the government must be ready to establish budgetary priorities in the light of its policies.

The budget document is going to be the child of the Government. I think it is reasonable, given the imbalance in resources, that the Government be expected to prepare and to present its budget and then provide the Opposition, and other members of this Assembly who so wish, with the opportunity to examine it, to pick flaws in it and to be selective or negative in their comments if they find fault with it. That provides, I think, the best balance in the process, rather than this artifice which is quite clearly designed to forestall ex-post comment and to cramp the estimates process. We will not be supporting this motion, Mr Speaker.

MS TUCKER (11.10): I move the amendment circulated in my name which reads as follows:

Paragraph (1), omit ", to consider the expenditure proposals, revenue estimates and the capital works program for each portfolio and make recommendations that maintain or improve the operating result", substitute "for inquiry and report".

The debate that we are having this morning is very important. Basically, my concern is that, as Mr Quinlan said, there is a real danger that these sorts of initiatives are about silencing criticism and accountability within the system, and that we can become coopted by being forced into a process like this. The Greens will not be supporting this motion.

I noticed in the media when this was announced - I think it was a media release from the Chief Minister - that the Chief Minister was expecting support from the Greens. I think she must have misunderstood the Greens' position, which has been consistent and clear. We do support the global budget being presented earlier to the community, and the Assembly should have the ability, by means of some form of standing committee, to look at issues relating to revenue and expenditure in the ACT. We are willing to look at

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