Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 603 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
political capital out of the bushfires. Frankly, from a purely political point of view, I hope you keep doing it, because I think you are on a loser.
I thank the committee for their support for the appropriation bill and the expeditious way they were able to carry out what was a reasonably broad-ranging hearing on a bill that had some fairly obvious lines in it, but nevertheless needed the process. I fully believe in the estimates process. Thank you to the committee.
Debate (on motion by Ms Tucker ) adjourned to a later hour.
Ordered that executive business be called on.
Appropriation Bill 2002-2003 (No 2)[Cognate paper:
Public Accounts-Standing Committee-Report No 4-Appropriation Bill 2002-2003 (No 2) (presented 4 March 2003)-Government response]
Debate resumed from 20 February 2003 on motion by Mr Quinlan:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (10.55): Mr Speaker, the opposition understands that public expenditure is necessary to cope with the effects of the bushfires on people and property as a result of the disastrous day in January. There is no question about that, no matter how much the Chief Minister tries to misconstrue and misrepresent the position of the opposition.
Our concern is about the way in which the government is handling the recovery process. The government's inability is already reflected in its poor setting-up of the inquiry. All it has done so far is put people offside by denying them legal protection-which I now understand they are going to reverse-if they come forward with information that may be critical of what was done, or what was not done, in the period leading up to the fires, during the fires and immediately afterwards.
All the government has succeeded in doing is to make itself look secretive, defensive and angry at people who dare to question it. No wonder the people of Canberra feel surprised and short-changed; no wonder they are starting to mistrust this Chief Minister.
The government is seeking the approval of the Assembly to spend some $17.3 million but has not been able to inform the Assembly about the source of those funds. It wants to spend but does not know where the money is coming from. That reminds us of the old adage: Labor can't manage money.
During the PAC hearings, we asked the government how the appropriation bill was to be funded, but the government did not know. As the PAC report says, when the government was asked if it had examined alternatives for funding the bushfire emergency, it appeared that such an exercise had not been carried out. As the report says: