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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4071 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

What if this Assembly took the view that it wanted to consider the overall operating result in light of what the priorities are in each individual department? We could not do it under this system because they are deliberately detached from each other. It is not the way to scrutinise the budget.

Mr Quinlan made some points earlier which I think have some merit and are worth repeating. What we have from this Government is a request that we accept more responsibility for the preparation of the Government's budget, but we do not have a commensurate approach from the Government saying, "We will give up some of our responsibility and some of our lurks and perks as Ministers". Ministers will not walk away from the considerable salaries they receive through being Ministers in the ACT administration, even though it could be argued, if this proposal goes forward, based on the Government's logic, that they had given away an element of responsibility because they asked the Assembly to do it instead. We do not hear them saying, "Well, we will give up our departmental liaison officer in a particular portfolio because that work now is going to be done by Assembly committees".

Mr Speaker, the proposal being put to the Assembly today is a nonsense. At the end of the day, what this will mean is less scrutiny and less accountability, and we will not have an Estimates Committee process. I challenge the Treasurer to stand in this place and say there will be an Estimates Committee, and I challenge the Treasurer to give his view on whether or not there should be an Estimates Committee.

Mr Humphries: I have already done that. I did that while you were upstairs.

MR CORBELL: Give us your view on whether or not there should be an Estimates Committee. Mr Speaker, if he is not prepared to do that, we have to have serious doubts about this proposal. Even if he is able to clarify the issue in relation to the Estimates Committee, we still have to question the workability of these arrangements. Quite simply, they are not workable. They are impractical. They are an attempt to emasculate the Assembly; to put a muzzle over the mouth of the Assembly when it comes to its watchdog role in relation to the preparation of the Government's budget.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (11.26): Mr Speaker, I want to address Ms Tucker's amendment and to indicate why it is that the Government has taken the approach that it has. The part of the motion in paragraph (1) that refers to recommendations that maintain or improve the operating result is a discipline imposed on this process which, I think I would agree, is an unusual discipline in respect of the sorts of matters before Assembly committees. We do not usually impose that kind of restriction, but it reflects, first of all, what the committee of the Assembly already recommended to the Government. I can recall, earlier this week, being chastised by some in the Assembly for ignoring the recommendations of the committee. Now our adoptions of the recommendations are being described as a cynical political exercise. I think the answer is that you cannot win either way.

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