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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 228 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

They accept the responsibility to be accountable to the people for executive decisions. Mrs Burke is not held accountable for executive decisions, although we might see something different after the next election.

The second option is that the committees can say, "No, we do not want to play. We are going to take our bat and go home. Bad luck." The obligation on committees is to report to the Assembly. That option existed last year. We could have said, "Sorry, you have not given us enough information. We cannot report to you on the information you have provided." That would have been fine. It would not have been a breach of standing orders. It would not have been a breach of anything. This stuff is meaningless. All it does is lay the blackmail down in black and white. The opposition's position on whether or not to participate hinges on responsibility and accountability for the budget. It is not our responsibility; it is the executive's responsibility.

The committee cannot go over the bottom line. If last year the available amount grew from about $4 million to $30-odd million, what would be wrong with a standing committee recommending a wish-list to the Assembly, or to the executive if they want to take it from the Assembly? It is the government's decision. They put that decision to the Assembly for ratification in an expression of confidence. It does not promote irresponsibility. It enables the government to find out what the mood of the community is like. It prevents us from having to be the umpire in a fight between two community groups competing for a slice of an imaginary cake.

The government has all the information and has had it for a while. It has put out glossy press releases, but we have to wait another 24 hours, curiously until the close of business on Friday night, to get a look at the detail. It is said that the devil is in the detail. I do not think so. I think the devil has the detail at the moment.

I cannot believe that the Chief Minister and Treasurer can talk about Labor Party arrogance when he has had all of the information and has put out a press release, yet we have to go and knock on his door to get a copy of the documents. Then he refers the documents to the standing committees before tabling them in this place. He could have tabled them on Tuesday, and nine-tenths of the objections to not being told would have dissipated. But he has to do this. I do not know what gets into him. I do not see the need for it. If he wants to get people offside, he has done an excellent job and I commend him for it.

I reiterate that the opposition does not regard standing committees as part of the executive. We do, however, support the concept of consultation in any draft budget process. But we will not be part of the government until after 20 October.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (11.59): Having listened to Mr Hargreaves speaking about committees being made an arm of the executive, I am flabbergasted. It is just so much codswallop. It is simply not true. We are here in the Assembly making the decision as an Assembly. If a majority of members decide that they do not want to do this, then the executive will do it in a different way. We are here in the Assembly making sure that it is not done as an arm of the executive. We are saying, "Yes, we understand it is our responsibility. We will make the decisions, but we are giving you an indication of what we are intending to do. You can then tell us whether it is a good idea or whether it is a bad idea. Then we will make the decisions."

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