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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 217 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

process work through Assembly committees, and we have perhaps a misguided sense of confidence that the committees do have the capacity to show leadership in respect of this process and embrace the challenge and the responsibility that go with discussing, reconsidering and reprioritising the government's priorities as laid down in the draft budget.

I know that those opposite are deeply opposed to this process. They are opposed to this process, I should put on the record very clearly, because they are terrified of the prospect that, should they inherit government in October this year, they-

Mr Wood: We will not inherit it; we will win it.

MR HUMPHRIES: I am pleased to see them assert that so confidently. Let the record show that they say that they will win government in October this year. Fair enough, that is their view. If and when they win government in October this year, they are terrified of the prospect of also having to work with a draft budget consultation process which is well established, which the community has become used to and which people actually like.

I acknowledge their motivation for this. I can understand it. It is a very conservative line. It is a line that runs very much along the conventional Westminster line. It is a line that does not respond to the reality that the ACT community is more articulate, more sophisticated, more educated and better able to take part in such debate than other communities. It is also a line that fails to understand that this community is changing, that people expect more say in the affairs of government, and they expect to have some regard taken of their views in this process.

For my part, I think it is arrogance in the extreme to have a process which essentially excludes people altogether until the final document is handed down. Even then, if governments say, in effect, as they often do, "Leave it as it stands. Do not change a word lest the process become one of other people manipulating our process," we have to go beyond that. I think we have the chance to evolve the democratic experience here.

The foundations of government were not rocked last year by the experience of a draft budget process. Life went on. The budget itself was changed as a result of that. Parts of the budget were changed. It reflected the input that people had during that process, and I think it can happen again successfully. This year we have had the experience of having the budget parameters considered already by an Assembly committee, as the Assembly wanted last time. Now we have the chance to have a look at the detail of the initiatives, and I would urge that on members as a suitable way of dealing with this matter.

I also note that there was discussion and negotiation with Assembly committees-at least, the Assembly's Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration-about the timetable for this process, and we suggested late last year a suitable timetable which I thought we had agreement on. We have since had comment from Assembly committees that the timetable was too tight and they do not have the time to do it. Members will note that we have extended the period of consultation by a further week to 23 March. I hope that that will alleviate the concerns of some members about their capacity to take part in the process.

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