Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2808 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.39): I would like to make some general comments about a number of aspects of the three matters which are being cognately debated today. First of all, I thank the government for having provided a fairly speedy response to the report of the Estimates Committee. Having been in that position myself before, I know it is not always easy to cobble together meaningful responses in such a short space of time, but the government has done its best to do that.
We confess to being surprised at the number of matters that it appears to have agreed to take up. That is a positive sign, and I hope that we will be able to progress those things in the course of the next 12 months as we work on an improved budget process. We had that debate last week about how we could improve the budget process and I hope that this is just the start of that.
I do express some concern about the number of responses in the committee report which appear not to be particularly helpful and where a shorter "Agreed" or "Not agreed" would have been a little more useful in working out what the government's position is. For example, on recommendation 8, relating to future technical adjustments being itemised separately from savings, I am not really sure whether the government proposes to do that or it does not. Perhaps the Treasurer can enlighten us about that.
Similarly, with recommendation 18, which relates to treatment of superannuation investments in the territory's accounts, the committee made a quite express recommendation about aligning practice with the Auditor-General's recommendations and with prevailing accounting standards. I think the government is saying that it accepts that that is the way it has to go, but that is not particularly clear.
Mr Quinlan: Grudgingly.
MR HUMPHRIES: Grudgingly, okay. Well, that's one that's been cleared up. There are a few others that I think could do with a bit more precision in the answer, and I look forward to that being sorted out as we proceed with the debate about the rest of the legislation.
I will reserve my remarks about the Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill until a bit later on today. I want to just make a general comment at this stage about the Appropriation Bill, as we are dealing with all three cognately as I understand it. There has been some speculation in the media about what the intention of the Liberal Party is with respect to the Appropriation Bill. I recall seeing a headline in the newspaper which suggested that the Chief Minister was saying that the Liberals intend to oppose the budget.
I think at this point a little bit of history is appropriate about the way in which budgets have been handled in this house. The pattern of previous years in this place has always been that the Liberal Party in opposition has taken the view that the government's budget is the government's own work-the opposition reserves the right to criticise, question, make suggestions about changes and point out deficiencies in that budget, but accepts at the end of the day that the traditional view about the budget as a whole is the appropriate view in a situation like this where governments operate almost invariably in a minority status. And that view is that to reject the government's budget is to reject the government itself and to effectively move no confidence in that government.