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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4436 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

The process was urgent and unforeseen, Mr Quinlan has stood up and told us, and that was all because of the Liberals, who, incidentally, hadn't been on the Treasury bench for eight months. Come 31 October, four months into the new financial year, and the sum of less than $220,000 of the $10 million had been spent. How was it urgent? When is an emergency an emergency? Let me quote from the Auditor's report:

It was known at the time of the Treasurer's authorisation that Housing would not spend any of the $10 million in the 2001-2002 year.

"It was known"were the Auditor's words. Presumably, the Treasurer knew. Of course he knew. Then comes the Watergate question, Mr Speaker: when did he know it? Did the cabinet know? Did any minister ask about it? Did any minister raise a query about bursting into the piggy bank?

Mr Speaker, from what has emerged already, this process was at least shabby and it was at least unorthodox. The Auditor-General says that it may have been illegal. It has more than a touch of the Khemlani about it. With one stroke of the Treasurer's pen and with the blessing of his ministerial colleagues, Mr Quinlan turned honest taxpayers' dollars into funny money. He has been caught out. The credit rating may have been protected, but the government's reputation has been damaged and, even worse, he has sold out public trust.

While not trying to anticipate anything that Mr Quinlan might say in his imminent defence, a defence of the indefensible, I am curious as to whether he will use the L-plate argument: "I'm sorry, Your Honour, for causing the pile up but I'm only a new driver. It's a first offence. Please let me off."That is what this government does. Mr Corbell, just this week, referred to it as a newly-elected government.

Mr Speaker, when do the L-plates come off? When do we get through the provisional period? When does the honeymoon become a marriage? Will they use the excuse that they still have their training wheels on? If they do, it will be laughable in the extreme. How will they attempt to shrug off this technicality, as the Treasurer referred to it yesterday? We are not talking about petty cash, Mr Speaker. We are talking about $10 million-as I have said, more than half of the Treasurer's Advance for the financial year.

For the record, we should look at how Treasurer's Advances have been used in the past. The Treasurer's Advance was used in 14 separate instances in the previous 12 months, each one in accordance with the law. The largest single amount issued under the Treasurer's Advance was $2 million and those 14 payments totalled just over $7 million. This $10 million use of the Treasurer's Advance is, on a number of levels, extraordinary.

We know that in this instance, this $10 million instance, process has not been followed. It is a shame on Mr Quinlan and it is a shame that this cabinet has acquiesced in this misuse of the Treasurer's Advance. It is a collective shame on the Labor cabinet. We have here evidence of utter incompetence, sublime arrogance and a recklessness that would make the late Rex FX Connor look down, or perhaps up, with approval.

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