Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3823 ..
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (10.56), in reply: I thank all members for their support for the bill. I am concerned about the opposition's proposed amendments, which will impose an additional burden on and be a distraction to the Auditor-General. From time to time organisations and the Auditor-General have differing opinions on matters of accounting principle. In the past the Auditor-General has done some backflips in relation to some matters. He was quite adamant in his opinion of the treatment of superannuation adjustments, but he then immediately reversed his opinion and was equally adamant.
Quite obviously, we need an Auditor-General for auditing purposes. However, in a small jurisdiction such as the ACT, the Auditor-General does not necessarily represent the only bank of knowledge and understanding. He might not have all the expertise that is required in economic forecasting. I am not referring to accounting, reporting and accountability; I am talking about projection and estimation. As soon as an ACT Budget is brought down it is examined by financial commentators. Generally, Access Economics immediately expresses an opinion on the budget and those basic assumptions are open to challenge and debate. The first few days of budget debate relate mainly to high-profile initiatives and underlying assumptions.
I do not think that the Assembly or members of the public are deprived of that form of analysis. In Victoria the certificate given in the budget report is very cursory. I do not know whether the examination of the budget similarly is cursory. In this case the Auditor-General's opinion is only one opinion. It behoves us all to express our own opinions and to participate fully in budget debate. Ms Tucker referred earlier to sustainability and to triple bottom-line reporting, In August I wrote to Treasury conveying to it some instructions relating to a reform program that is now under way. I quote from one sentence of that correspondence, which states:
In conjunction with the Office of Sustainability, Treasury will examine the options for incorporating triple bottom-line reporting into the current financial reporting framework.
That work, which is already under way, is an element that was brought up in the past in a number of estimates committee reports. The government has picked up on that message. I have given instructions to Treasury to work towards triple bottom-line reporting. I have spoken to a number of people in this place and I have said to them, "Exactly what does it mean? How do we start implementing measures in this area?"Next year I intend to produce a budget in much the same format as previous budgets. In addition, I will produce a document that will reflect how that budget might be presented under the triple bottom-line reporting regime.
Assembly members and members of the estimates committees who examine the budget will be able to examine these proposed changes. In that way we will achieve a common understanding of triple bottom-line reporting. It must be practicable and automatic and it must be able to be understood by all members in this place and by members of the community. They want to know what is going on. It is my intention to present an alternative to the House so that we can collectively agree on the budget and everyone has an opportunity to make an input. I thank all members for their support for this bill.