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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 154 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

are no sanctions that can be applied if the government fails or simply declines to act prudently, whatever that means, and I think the whole thing is a bit of a waste of time. I submit, Mr Speaker, that it is not a bill that anybody in this place ought to be supporting, with or without amendment, with due respect to Mr Quinlan.

MR QUINLAN (4.47): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, first of all, I think Mr Osborne means well by this bill. The boy means well, but let's face it. I think Mr Kaine, who has some expertise in the matter, has fairly well put his finger on the problem inasmuch as this bill is somewhat platitudinous and really does not have any effect. The Financial Management Act at this stage essentially guides the structure, format and requirements for financial management in the ACT. It is essentially a job description for the Treasurer regarding the budget, annual reports and associated financial documentation.

It would change the nature of the Financial Management Act if we moved from its largely procedural nature to make it more prescriptive in terms of the budget itself. We have seen today in question time where different accounting treatments, all of which may be technically legal, can produce different bottom lines. I do not think we really want to get any worse than we are at this very moment in relation to contriving a bottom line.

I will foreshadow the amendments that I have put forward. I think they improve technically those amendments that you are going to make. If necessary we will debate them, but at this stage we will not be supporting the bill at the in-principle stage anyway.

MR HUMPHRIES (Chief Minister, Minister for Community Affairs and Treasurer) (4.49): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I heard the comments made by Mr Kaine and Mr Quinlan in this debate and I think that, in particular, Mr Kaine's comments, at face value, are reasonable criticisms of the bill if we are to view those objectives or those requirements laid out in the bill as some kind of hard and fast formula which will be used by the Assembly or the community, or even the courts, to hold the Treasurer of the day or the government of the day to account.

It is pretty hard to haul somebody up before whatever particular court of public opinion or court of law it might be and say, "This man or woman broke the law. They did not comply with the terms of the Financial Management Bill 1998, clauses so and so and such and such." Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I do not think that is a reason for opposing this legislation.

I read the legislation in a very different way perhaps from Mr Kaine and Mr Quinlan. I see this as being a statement of objectives and a statement of principles to which governments are to be committed by virtue of their inclusion within the Financial Management Act. Indeed, the points that give Mr Kaine and Mr Quinlan so much trouble are described as "principles of responsible financial management". I do not think that the use of these as hard and fast rules is feasible, and I do not think it is intended that they be used in that way.

I want to quote, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, from the Health and Community Care Services Act 1996. You might wonder what this has to do with the Financial Management Act. Well, I just want to read from the objectives section of this act. It describes the Australian Capital Territory Health and Community Care Service which was established by that act. It says this:

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