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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 220 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

Can any committee take a part of the budget and deal with it within their present terms of reference? I am not certain that they can. Has anybody asked the Clerk for an opinion on that? I am not sure whether they have. There are serious matters connected with this matter and, as I said at the beginning, I do not think that the objections to it are based on some political ideology or ideological approach to the question of budget-making. The problem stems from the mechanics of how it is to be done, and I do have some difficulty with that too.

I think that we may be leading the community to believe that the committees can be very powerful in influencing the outcomes of the budget when perhaps they are not because of the time constraints and the other constraints that apply. If the community has this false impression about the possible outcomes of their making submissions through the committees, I think that would be most undesirable.

I will not oppose the Chief Minister's proposals, but I do think that there are some major questions that need to be dealt with and, as I say, they stem from the way that we deal with it, rather than the general principle of whether we do or do not..

MR QUINLAN (11.23): During his speech, the Chief Minister and Treasurer talked about this process. I just want to revisit that. I do believe the process is a sham but, on the other hand, I have to congratulate the Chief Minister and Treasurer because, at the same time as being a sham, it is a fairly clever political manoeuvre. I do not say it is clever-intelligent; I just say it is clever-devious.

To make that point, let me go back to last year's draft budget, when we introduced the process. What we saw there was virtually a month or six weeks of progressive leaks which, quite obviously, turned into firm commitments once they were out there. We then saw a draft budget come forward with a very modest result and a restriction on the committees to which it was to be referred about what they might or might not do within that budget, so much so that they were virtually required to cut one program to bring in another, which I think is really the responsibility of the government of the day.

We did see the actual budget come down and-surprise, surprise-the revenue effort had improved considerably, but the bottom line had not changed much because the government was able to devote more expenditure to so-called initiatives. We saw the beginning last year with, I think, building social capital, where we had in the order of $3 million spread over 19 programs, which effectively meant 19 photo opportunities and 19 program launches. I rather figured that, by the time we had paid for the tea and bickies for those program launches and the glossy brochure that told you what your government is doing for you, there really was not much going to a program.

But it started the process of papering over the cracks. Sometimes, we in here play what we call buzz word bingo. I will give you a couple of buzz words right now-negative hygiene, which used to be used in management studies to describe a process where you do things that are actually of no benefit, but they forestall criticism. This government seems to have launched itself into that process with this whole scattergun approach a year ago, which appeared, I have to say, well after the draft budget process had been conducted.

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