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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 1059 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

$184,000-is a relatively small sum, so I regard it as just the start of a larger funding commitment over time.

I note that the Estimates Committee put forward the recommendation that the work on the policy framework for the office be accelerated to allow it to operate for the 2002-2003 budget. This would certainly be the ideal, but I do not think we should be rushing into this before the necessary groundwork has been done. Otherwise, we could end up with a half-baked or token effort.

Perhaps more important is the committee's other recommendation, which is that the government should establish a reference committee of stakeholders and experts to oversee the development of the office. I had thought of this need a while ago, and have already written to the Chief Minister requesting that an expert advisory committee be established.

The other items in the bill address cost pressures in various areas of government that were not foreseen at the time of the previous budget. Most of these seem reasonable, although I agree with the Estimates Committee that we should have been informed about some of these items before now, and that those could have been incorporated in Appropriation Bill (No 2).

I have a few comments on other items in the bill. The extra funding for community groups to cover the increased costs arising from the SACS award is very welcome. I note that we are having to give some $3.4 million to CTEC to cover its losses on, and increased costs for, the V8 supercar race and other events. I think this government should really question the worth of this event to the ACT, and ask itself why it should so heavily subsidise such an event. I am interested, although not surprised, to see that this was not really drawn out in the Estimates Committee's report.

I find it odd that we are spending some $1.3 million for additional labour expenses to deal with bushfire management in our forests, yet we are also spending money on a redundancy program for ACT Forests staff. Perhaps the recent disastrous bushfires show that we should be keeping up the staff numbers in ACT Forests, or increasing numbers in other areas of forest management.

One of the items in this bill involves a passing through of funding from the Commonwealth for the first home owner grants scheme, and is thus budget neutral. I agree with the Estimates Committee that there should not have to be an extra appropriation every time there is an adjustment in the Commonwealth funding for specific purposes, and that rather the budget should be adjusted automatically. Over all, though, I do not have any major objections to the bill and am prepared to support it.

Regarding the comments from Mr Humphries on the nature of the government's response to the Estimates Committee's report, I cannot agree that it is such a disaster. The Estimates Committee's report is fairly policy focused. According to my understanding of what Mr Humphries' concerns are, I think I have addressed a number of them already. He seemed to be concerned that one of the responses was not clear, and that was the response to recommendation 6: "That government gives consideration to extending, by time and scope, its recycling education campaign," and so on. I agree that it is not really clear.

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