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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 3875 ..

Financial Management Amendment Bill 2001 (No 3)

Debate resumed from 9 August, 2001, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR QUINLAN (10.28): The opposition will be supporting this bill. It has been described in the explanatory memorandum as being largely technical. It changes a number of the provisions within the Financial Management Act. One shudders when one sees terms like "investment" used in those changes at this time, particularly as authorities are involved. We know that a well-known authority is making a substantial investment at the moment, but I think it is all right.

There is some classification of public money, which I think is just a matter of format. There are adjustments to accommodate GST changes. The major adjustment is to take the prescriptiveness in relation to financial statements out of the act and put that into the guidelines, because over recent times Australian accounting standards have become quite fluid. As a member of the accounting profession, I am a little disappointed in the way accounting standards have changed in a piecemeal manner. Pick up financial statements that fully comply with the standards and try to look up how much the company spent on wages or a major expense item, and it is not even shown. If it is shown, it is shown somewhere in the notes attached to the statement of financial performance, as opposed to being part of the good old profit and loss statement. Put me down as a Luddite when it comes to some of the accounting standards of today.

Mr Humphries: You are a conservative.

MR QUINLAN: Yes, put me down as a small "c" conservative. I appreciate the need to move the prescriptiveness of accounting reports to the guidelines, even though this government quite happily uses American standards when it suits in order to bring in varying accounting standards as between past years like 1995-96 and today.

Mr Humphries: The Auditor has to approve these things. The Auditor has to decide.

MR QUINLAN: Okay, that is fine. I am just making the point that a change in the use of accounting standards can make a significant difference to a bottom line, with no particular improvement in the financial position. I do not think it is mentioned in the explanatory memorandum but probably should have been-I guess you could put it down to slipping one in-that the period in which the administration has to produce financial statements has been expanded from 30 days to 45 days. I am personally prepared to let that go. We have already made some arrangements with the government on cutting reporting down to quarterly reporting and making sure it is open, meaningful reporting for the first time. A lot of financial statements that have gone through this place over the last 31/2 years have been absolutely meaningless.

With my heart in my mouth, I am prepared to support this bill. Even the noted section 38 is tinkered with, but I trust that it has now returned to its intended use-for the management of short-term funds-and will no longer be used as a loophole to explain law-breaking as in relation to Bruce Stadium. I trust that this bill improves the operation of the Financial Management Act.

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