Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 68 ..
MS DUNDAS (11.23): As has been mentioned, this report of the Planning and Environment Committee is a process focused report. Annual reports do play an important part in accountability, and the Planning and Environment Committee in its report touches on a few issues encountered in trying to use the annual reports in line with a number of the other reports that are produced throughout the year as a tool to actually get at the accountability of this government.
Recommendation 2 specifically discusses the need for further debate about how we run our annual reports process in this Assembly in line with both the estimates process and other budgetary processes. I am very keen to have this debate. While I do not necessarily agree with the model that is put forward of one committee looking at all of these issues, be it a standing or select committee, we do need the focus of the current committees and their policy expertise to explore to a greater extent a number of issues in depth. I am keen to see the process made better.
We have encountered a number of problems this year in particular in trying to use the annual reports as an information tool and as part of the accountability process. The report and Mrs Dunne have already touched on this. While the report does raise a number of these issues-and I hope that we as an Assembly can address these concerns-we were able, through the reporting process, to look at a number of policy issues, and I would just like to touch on a few that I think are important.
One, of course, is the neighbourhood planning and master planning process that has been going on under the term of the Labor government. I was disappointed to hear yet again from the Minister for Planning that the time frame for taking neighbourhood planning out of the inner-north and inner-south is still something that we will see soon. We had this problem during the Estimates process, and we still have this problem six months later, that information about the future of neighbourhood planning and the involvement of the entire city of Canberra is not being included in the development of the neighbourhood planning process.
The committee was also able to have an interesting discussion about bushfire fuel management after the Christmas fires of 2001, and the committee was quite clear in its investigations that we were only looking up to 30 June 2002, as that was the period the annual reports covered. But I think the information that was gleaned will be important into the future.
Other issues that we touched on included the ACTION Authority's enterprise bargaining arrangements and their need to find efficiencies within their own funding regime to pay for increases to their staff. It will be interesting to see if any more efficiencies are viable within ACTION to meet pay rise demands.
Of course, we also looked at housing as part of the Department of Urban Services, even though we are the Planning and Environment Committee. Again it was disappointing to hear from ministers the answer "soon"to questions that have been floating around for six months, 12 months, about the future of fire safety arrangements and the future of some of the big flat complexes.