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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2062 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Proposed expenditure-part 2-Auditor-General, $925,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $925,000.

MR BERRY (4.35): I think it is appropriate now to launch into that wide-ranging debate because Auditor-General's is an area where accountability is uppermost in our minds. Mr Speaker, I want to deal with a few of the things that were dealt with in the Estimates Committee report which I think are worth commenting on.

I want first of all to take some notice of the tabling statement from the Chief Minister in relation to the government's response. On any estimation this falls into the category, I fear, of being quite churlish and not deserving of a Chief Minister of the territory. Mr Speaker, I have been the chair of estimates committees in the past, as have a number of members in this place, and I have to say that the government has described each estimates committee report, or the ones that I have been involved in anyway, as the lowest of low.

I thought at the time that that was a badge that one should wear with some honour. But each time one of my Labor colleagues presented another estimates committee report as chairman, I lost the belt. I had the championship belt, I thought, for a little while because I did not think anybody could say such ugly things about people and their political position in relation to matters in this place until the next Labor colleague came out with a strong report in an attempt to hold the government accountable along the way. It looks as though Mr Quinlan has the championship belt now. He has wrestled it out of the hands of Mr Corbell. So, there are a lot of ex-champions in this place when it comes to estimates committee reports and the way the government responds to them.

Mr Speaker, I think the Estimates Committee process was a strong process, given the constraints that it had applied to it, the time lines and those sorts of things. I think the Estimates Committee did a pretty darn good job. They worked their way through all of the jobs that were put in front of them with enthusiasm and eventually came up with a report which was not pleasing to the government. Well, so what, one might say. It is a report that is consistent with estimates committees' criticisms of governments in this place over a period of years.

During an earlier debate in relation to the matter I heard some reference to earlier estimates committees which were not chaired by the Labor Party but were chaired by a member of the crossbenches. The government said they were a good thing. What the government failed to tell you was how it came about that the Estimates Committee was chaired by a member of the crossbenches. I think there might have been only one such estimates committee, but it was made up of the whole of the non-executive members in this place. Of course, Labor was in government, as I recall, and guess who was in opposition? The Liberals. Of course, they had the majority on that Estimates Committee in its deliberative stages and that made a very strong difference to the outcomes of those reports. So if Mr Pot wants to call the kettle black, he ought to go back and have a look at those days if he wants to get nearer to the facts in relation to past estimates committee reports.

Mr Speaker, I will go through some of the issues which turned up in the report to the Assembly, and I will try to get to some of the issues which are raised in the government's response. I will be dealing at length with free school bus matters later.

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