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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 986 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The committee was concerned about the absence of a government submission to the inquiry. The committee felt that it did not have the necessary data to determine the priority issues for service delivery in the 2002/03 budget. I refer to areas such as police and emergency services, law and order, consumer affairs, consumer and individual rights, civil liberties, industrial relations and governance generally.

On 28 March this year the government provided the committee with a document entitled Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002-2003 Budget Consultation. As we know, the document invited input from the public. For starters, the request for public input was a bit late, given that public submissions had closed earlier that month. The document went on to say that it was intended to promote improved information about the major issues currently facing the ACT.

The report refers to one part of the document, which I will note. The document indicated that for this government's budgetary cycle the forward estimates would indicate a deficit position. It also indicated that the government was seriously considering a number of revenue and savings proposals in conjunction with a review of existing and proposed expenditure proposals. Further, it indicated that it anticipated that borrowings would be required in 2003/04. Given that in this financial year we are currently in a surplus situation, I would just sound some warning bells.

It being 45 minutes after the commencement of Assembly business, the debate was interrupted in accordance with standing order 77. Ordered that the time allotted to Assembly business be extended by 30 minutes.

MR STEFANIAK: As I was saying, the comments in relation to borrowings should sound some warning bells in that the 2001/02 budget is currently in a surplus situation. I think it would be very bad for the territory if we were to lapse into a series of borrowings and spending beyond our means. I commend to the current Treasurer that he bear that very much in mind when cabinet policies are being considered during his budget deliberations. They will be doing no-one any favours if they go down the path of borrowing to fund promises that cannot be afforded.

Mr Speaker, we listed four items relating to the Department of Justice and Community Safety. The problems, which effectively relate to Appropriation Bill (No 3), are being looked at by another committee and so we made no further comment on them. I think the reasons were detailed and, if I might make a comment, they did appear to be quite logical in terms of those additional expenditures. Certain things like court cases that blow out are very difficult to anticipate. Indeed, the deliberate lighting of the extreme bush fires that we experienced incurred additional costs which one would not have necessarily foreseen.

The committee indicated its concern-and in fact it was disturbed-that the process of this inquiry might have generated hopes in our local community about a meaningful input to the budget process. It was particularly concerned about the absence of timely government input to the inquiry. Because of that lack of government input and time considerations, community expectations could not be realised.

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