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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (29 March) . . Page.. 1183 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

from the significant organisations that made submissions to those committees was universal.

So one has to ask the question: if there is a problem, where does the problem lie? I would submit that it does not lie with the committees. All of the committees genuinely tried to do what the government asked them to do. They succeeded or they failed to some degree, depending on the time available and the information they had available to them.

Mr Stefaniak touched on the crux of this when he said that no government before this one has tried a draft budget. It so happens that he is wrong. In the Alliance government in the early 1990s I propounded and tried to put into effect not a one-year budget with three years forward estimates, but a five-year rolling budget in which you projected your true expenditures, not just some rough old guesses about what you might do in years 2 and 3. Even today years 2 and 3 of the government's forward estimates are useless for all practical purposes.

I tried to project a five-year rolling budget. As year 5 became year 4, year 3, year 2, year 1 and finally became the budget, it would have been debated by the community every year. By the time year 5 became the actual budget, the budget would had been thrashed over five times by the community. The idea was that the five-year forward budget would be a clear indication of what the government's intentions were and what its longer term expenditure and revenue targets were. So there has been an experiment before. Regrettably, that was set aside by the Labor government when they took government back in 1991. I think that is a far better approach, because you are not looking at just this year's budget in isolation from what is going to happen in the future.

The question is: how do we do this? The fundamental problem the government has to confront is that we have this fixed idea about what the budget cycle is. The budget cycle process begins in August and it finishes in May or June the following year. It is just possible that the government might have to lengthen its budget process and begin the process three months earlier than it currently does, which would allow ample time for the committees and the community to look at their draft budget if the government were serious about having the community and the committees look at the draft budget.

Until the government does a bit of lateral thinking about how it can improve its budget process so that the community and the committees can genuinely participate in the program, I think it ill behoves the Treasurer to criticise those who do their best to make an input.

I share Ms Tucker's concerns. The aggressive and angry way in which the Chief Minister and Treasurer responded to the committee is quite out of order and quite unnecessary. The government needs to look at its own performance before it starts criticising committees, and indirectly the community, for their failure to make the kind of input the Treasurer would like. If the Treasurer wants the committees of this place to produce his budget for him, then he has to be more up front and put more information before those committees.

I will be interested to see whether this so-called draft budget process, this sham of a draft budget process, is repeated next year and, if so, whether it is improved.

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