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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3824 ..

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clauses 1 to 4, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 5.

MR STEFANIAK (11.03): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 3880].

I refer in this debate not only to my first amendment but also to my more substantive second amendment. As I indicated earlier, the Liberal Party has already indicated its support for the government's proposed amendments to the Financial Management Act. Our position is quite clear. There is more that we, as a discrete jurisdiction in Australia, can do to enhance the territory's framework of financial and management processes and practices to ensure appropriate accountability, openness and responsibility in the implementation of decision-making.

These amendments will ensure that there is a sound government framework in the ACT. However, one additional amendment will considerably strengthen the government's arrangements. Amendment 1, which is in two parts, would place a responsibility on the ACT Auditor-General to perform two important tasks in the lead-up to the annual budget. We do not think that is particularly onerous. As the Treasurer said earlier, they are two very important tasks. The Auditor-General would identify the key assumptions on which the annual budget is based. The Office of the Auditor-General, as an agency that is independent of the government, would then evaluate the use of those assumptions in the preparation of the budget.

At the time of the presentation of the budget the Treasurer will provide to the Assembly, as part of the budgetary documentation, a report prepared by the Auditor-General. The intent of these amendments is to provide the ACT community with an independent review of the basis on which the budget has been formed. I said earlier-and I emphasise this point-that these amendments will not reduce or remove any of the responsibility that the government currently has for the preparation of the budget and for the management of the territory's economic and financial affairs and outcomes. Those matters, which are an integral part of the government's responsibility, will remain its responsibility under these amendments. One change relates to the quality of information that is available to this Assembly and to the community about the way in which the budget has been developed.

It is pertinent to revisit for a moment the experiences in Victoria-another Labor state-and to compare its approach with our approach to the role of the Auditor-General. As I said earlier, in 2000 the Victorian Treasurer introduced a number of amendments to the budgetary and financial management framework in Victoria. The key element of those proposals was to enable the Auditor-General to subject the state budget to professional review and to report to the parliament on the outcome of that review. I summarise the

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