Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3822 ..

MS DUNDAS (10.53): The ACT Democrats support the Financial Management Amendment Bill 2003 (No 2). Financial responsibility to the people is one of the most important aspects of any system of democratic government. The major method that governments use to alter the social, environmental and economic conditions of society is through the expenditure of government funds, which are usually extracted from the public in the form of taxes. It is a pity that the Treasurer has not used this, or any of the previous three Financial Management Amendment Bills that were introduced in this Assembly, to clarify the application of the Treasurer's Advance, which has been the subject of some controversy over the past few years.

Charters of financial integrity, budget honesty or social and fiscal responsibility have become a bit of a political fad in recent years, with both state and Commonwealth governments implementing different versions of the concept, some of which have more substance than the others. I congratulate the Treasurer on introducing this bill in the Assembly, as I believe it has more substance than most of the other bills-in particular, the Commonwealth's charter of budget honesty that expressly provides that it cannot be enforced by any court.

The new requirements introduced by this bill will increase the transparency of the territory budget. It also introduces a number of measures to enhance awareness of the territory's financial position. The additional disclosure of the government's economic assumptions in the budget papers assists in informing the Assembly of the basis on which the budget has been prepared. The statement of financial policy objectives and strategies will increase knowledge about the fiscal intentions of the government. The additional detail will give members of this Assembly and the general public a greater understanding of the risks and potential changes that may occur throughout a financial year, in particular, in relation to revenue which can be affected by changes in economic and other conditions. The additional requirements, which will include a sensitivity analysis and a statement of risks, will give greater detail about the likelihood and extent of possible changes to the territory's financial position.

The Democrats have always been strong supporters of greater transparency at all levels of government. Democratic principles are about the right of people to choose those who will govern on their behalf. They are also able to participate in government decision making with a full knowledge of the public processes, and they have a right to be informed as to how the government will spend the money it has collected from the population. This bill refers also to the release of financial details of the territory's financial position before an election. I hope that that measure will go some way towards reducing the amount of conjecture and accusations during election campaigns about the true state of the territory's financial position. We will be able to spend more time debating policy issues if we are fully informed of the fiscal environment of the territory.

However, the financial side of things is not the only area of government that requires additional disclosures. I have referred in this place on a number of occasions to triple bottom-line accounting. The ACT government must do more, in measuring and assessing its environmental and social bottom lines, to incorporate greater transparency and better management of the impact of these measures-issues that I am sure will be debated in the future. Governments must continue to make budgets as clear and accountable as they can. I will refer in the detail stage to my foreshadowed amendments.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .