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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4211 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The third element of this bill is the requirement for intergenerational reporting every fifth financial year. There has been much discussion about the question of intergenerational reporting in recent years. The Commonwealth government announced that it would be conducting such a report when it presented this year's budget. The requirement in the legislation is that a report on intergenerational issues is to be presented in conjunction with every fifth territory budget.

An intergenerational report is defined, in proposed new section 19G, as one which must:

assess the long-term sustainability of current government policies over the next 30 years, including by taking account of the financial implications of demographic change.

This is an important measure in ensuring that governments at least report, if not think, on a long-term basis. It is important that governments are able to understand and articulate how their policies will affect the next and future generations of Canberrans. Sustainability is a concept tied up very closely with that, and to report on a long-term basis is an important extension of that concept.

The fourth innovation of this legislation is to require a pre-election budget update, to be provided before each ACT election. One was provided before last year's ACT election but has not necessarily been provided before other ACT elections. I think it should be required, as part of legislation, before each election.

This piece of legislation requires that an update be provided at least 48 days before the election in order that members of political parties have a picture of the territory's financial position and performance against financial objectives, so that when election commitments are submitted to the independent assessor under the other piece of legislation it will be possible for the assessment to be done within the framework of agreed outcomes and progress against the government's objectives. Again, this is not just the presentation of figures; it is reporting against the objectives and strategies articulated by the government in its own budget.

The second part of the bill amends the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 1995, allowing the minister or the Assembly to require that certain information be provided to the Assembly on a quarterly rather than annual basis. Again, it is designed to enhance transparency and accountability.

It should be possible for the Assembly to call on reports to be provided more regularly than each year, and quarterly rather than annual segmentation of reports would assist the Assembly to determine whether particular attention has been paid to particular questions of territory public interest. To do so without having to legislate specifically for it on every occasion, or pass a motion which may or may not be acceptable to the government, is an appropriate development.

This package is about enhancing the ACT community's understanding of what is going on in budgeting. It is essential for our economic prosperity to see clearly what is happening and for people to judge and be able to comment upon-and to criticise, if necessary-how budgets are put together and implemented.

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