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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3828 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Assumptions have been made that the budget is gender neutral. It is not gender neutral; it is gender blind. It is blind to the impact that it will have on the environment and on society. We have heard this government's rhetoric and we know that it is committed to implementing these proposals. However, these proposals have resource implications. I would like the Treasurer to acknowledge that today. I would also like him to state that he intends to provide additional resources for this important work. Mr Smyth and Mr Stefaniak alluded to the fact that their cutting-edge amendment represented best practice in the development of budget policy. They said that Victoria is leading the way in this area. I believe that is more important for us to lead the way by including in our budget these broader issues.

MS DUNDAS (11.18): We just had an interesting debate about what we want in our budgets, how we think our budgets should be shaped and how they should be measured at the other end. There has been much debate about this amendment since it was foreshadowed about a month ago. After giving the amendment much thought and after weighing up many different issues, I will support the amendment that was foreshadowed earlier. The government has put forward many reasons to establish why it believes that this amendment, which is not useful, was not incorporated in the original bill. I am not convinced that these concerns are insurmountable. Over time the Victorian experience has shown that an examination of budgets by the Auditor-General has led to improvements in their preparation.

The central concept of this amendment is that the Assembly be provided with an alternative source of expertise, rather than simply relying on the expertise of Treasury. Staff members in my office have spoken with staff members in the Office of the Auditor-General. The Acting Auditor-General believes that the audit office is capable, ready and able to implement this amendment if Assembly members choose to support it. Audit office staff believe that they have the skills to participate in these processes and they have the resources to implement this amendment. I am not suggesting that Treasury is providing us with the wrong information; I am suggesting that we should include that audit process in the budget to give us a better picture of what Treasury is saying.

This Assembly must have the benefit of an independent and professional opinion. It is clearly beyond the resources of a member of this Assembly to examine every calculation in the budget and to determine whether they have been prepared correctly. If we work through the problems that might be associated with the implementation of this amendment it will lead to a significant improvement in accountability and the procedures that are used to prepare territory budgets. There are many different ways of advancing this concept. From what has been said today, budget papers and budget accountability can be improved. As ideas are crystallised and as amendments are proposed we will have debates in the future on this issue.

This amendment would be a helpful step in the preparation of audit reports. We must make our budgets more accountable and introduce different ideas and different thought processes about what we want to achieve in the budgetary process. This reporting mechanism will be incredibly helpful in the estimates committee process. Estimates committees will have another set of figures to examine. They will be able to question the Auditor-General about those figures, compare them with earlier figures and ensure the

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