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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2049 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Turning to the report, the committee tried to concern itself with the question of what is an appropriate level of budget surplus. Mr Speaker, I recognise that this is a complex issue but the committee's intellectual input into the discourse on this matter is reflected in recommendation 1, where it asks when the government made the decision to apply the operating surplus to fund the initiatives. Would a date suffice or would the time of day help the committee form a view on an appropriate level of budget surplus? The same level of intellectual input is evident generally in the rest of the report. Again, this sets a new low.

I note that the committee could not reach a consensus on the draft budget, even though the committee obviously likes it and wants it. So the committee has made itself irrelevant on this issue.

Then, Mr Speaker, the committee chair jumped onto his worn-out hobbyhorse of separating the reporting of superannuation from the government accounts, even after advice to the contrary from the Auditor-General. But that did not deter the chair-a former accountant of the year, would you believe-from making a recommendation which is, in part, contrary to accounting standards. The same disregard for evidence to the contrary is generally evident throughout the report.

There is the usual talking down of the economy, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Then there is the obsession with cash when the accounts clearly demonstrate that over the forward estimates the working capital ratio, which is the figure that really matters, becomes stronger.

The committee did not even try to understand the numbers in the budget papers. One wonders how much accrual accounting was actually absorbed by members in this place. The same unwillingness to look at the facts and understand and grasp the issues is generally evident throughout the report.

Mr Speaker, it is one thing for the opposition to take a bit of licence, with perhaps a degree of disregard for facts, and show a desire to put on its own spin for the purpose of debate in this Assembly. I do not endorse this practice but I can understand it. It is quite another thing for an Assembly committee to produce a report which disregards the facts and does not involve itself in a critical understanding of the issues.

Mr Speaker, there is much more that I could say. In summary, the report is in various places plain wrong, jumps to conclusions with no preceding evidence, makes unsubstantiated claims, has inappropriate and unfounded imputations or is simply blatantly political. It is basically a litany of the chairman's prejudices and it is not worthy of a report from an Assembly committee. It is a far cry from the reports of estimates committees brought down in the period prior to 1995. This Assembly should expect better from its committees; certainly the community deserves better from the Assembly.

Mr Speaker, the government has endeavoured to respond to the report to the extent possible and I commend the government response to the Assembly.

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