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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 803 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

As I said, this is the second subsequent appropriation bill to the main appropriation bill for 2001-02. Appropriation Bill (No 2) in December dealt mainly with the delivery of government promises. This bill deals mainly, although not exclusively, with unanticipated cost pressures. For example, it provides an extra $737,000 for exceptionally costly matters facing the director of public prosecutions in the ACT courts. That is a phenomenon which occurs quite regularly. It provides another $633,000 for bushfire-related measures, dealing particularly with the aftermath of the Christmas Eve bushfires last year. There is $1.507 million for increases in substitute care costs, and $300,000 to bring forward redundancies in ACT forests. The committee had little concern or comment about the majority of those appropriations. I suspect they will receive the overwhelming support of the Assembly.

Having said that, however, there were a number of things which disturbed the committee as it continued its deliberations and examination of witnesses. One of the issues the committee was concerned about was the timing of the appropriation bill and the way in which that timing incorporated a number of items which might appear in subsequent appropriations.

The committee was unsure as to why some items were in this bill, as opposed to the second appropriation bill. A number of members of the committee felt that a fourth appropriation bill for 2001-02 was inevitable.

The government, apparently, wants to quarantine the content of the second and third appropriation bills, but there is a question over the value of that process. Of course, on the original timetable put forward by the government, the third appropriation bill would not have been subject to any scrutiny by an estimates committee because it was due to be passed shortly after it was introduced.

The Assembly is determined that there should be scrutiny of this appropriation. As I have said, Mr Speaker, it is the view of some members of the committee that a fourth appropriation bill may well be necessary this financial year, because of the cost pressures that inevitably arise in the course of a financial year. We have all the cost pressures to take into account since the introduction of this bill two months ago. The issues with a subsequent appropriation bill will be: what scrutiny is possible of that bill, how will that bill deal with cost pressures vis-à-vis the use of the Treasurer's Advance, and the further costs and delay that will be necessary to deal with that subsequent appropriation bill.

The question was asked: why not incorporate the measures in this bill in a later appropriation bill to be passed in, say, May or June of this year-a bill which is likely to be able to scoop up all of the subsequent cost pressures in the course of the financial year?

The Treasurer gave an explanation to that question. He said he wanted to ensure that this bill was passed quickly, so the government was able to act under the assurance that the appropriation it needed to conduct these activities had been approved by the Assembly. The implication of those comments is that, if the Assembly were to reject the appropriation, then, presumably, the government would choose to not proceed with some of those additional expenditures.

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