Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 808 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
That is all I have to say about this report. Again, I thank the other members of the committee-and this Assembly-for the opportunity to be part of the appropriation process.
MR HARGREAVES (11.57): Mr Speaker, I will refer to a couple of things that have been raised, and also, of course, to the report. The use of the Treasurer's Advance was indeed talked about in the context of the committee's deliberations. There seems to be some sort of discretion on the part of treasurers as to whether this is to be used for unknown purposes or emergency purposes. I do not have a difficulty with either of them, but the predominance of items in Appropriation Bill (No 3) was known, and they were not emergency items. Some of them might have been regarded as a bit urgent, but emergency? That is a bit iffy, I think.
I believe the use of an appropriation bill aided the transparency and actually did something for which I was grateful-that was to put the detail of the government's intentions on the table of the Assembly, before it happened. In the context of the Treasurer's Advance, that advance is used and the reasons are then tabled in the Assembly. It is an after-the-event exercise. In the context of this one, you can be critical on any number of grounds, but not on the grounds of lack of transparency. It was certainly there.
I want to comment on the convention which applies to estimates committees. There is an ugly side to the estimates committee system. It seems that a convention has been created in the past which allows open slather on the performance of the government of the day, or its plans for financial management.
I regret that convention, quite seriously. I think it is an appalling state of affairs. I regret the fact that the convention allows a complete and absolute departure from the terms of reference. No government of either colour is innocent of this practice in the past. It actually encourages politicisation and discourages scrutiny. I thought I would say this for the entertainment of Ms Tucker!
MR SPEAKER: You are entertaining me!
MR HARGREAVES: It puts before the committees the temptation to depart from the non-partisan approach to committee work.
As we went around the countryside and had a look at various places-I am sure Mr Stefaniak and Ms Tucker will agree with this-we found that our committee system is, by a long shot, the best in the country. Most of the places interstate, using numbers not dissimilar to those in this place, have totally wiped out and decimated the crossbench from any involvement in the committee system. I sometimes wonder why we do not do it here-except that I can get entertained by Ms Tucker!
We do not do that because we want people to participate in the committee system. That is why we do not use the numbers in this place to determine who is going to sit on committees. I regret the fact that this kind of convention encourages that sort of departure. I want the record to reflect that.