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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5139 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

afternoon and evening of Australia Day. But some days before-in fact, well before-this application was discussed by the festival fund with Australia Day in the National Capital Inc and its resulting application lodged, the Prime Minister had already announced that the National Capital Authority would be staging a concert on 25 January, the day before the proposed Australia Day celebrations locally.

People need to understand this; there have been changes. The festival fund is a competitive fund that has comprehensive and very clear guidelines, which include a statement that activities seeking funding should complement and not duplicate existing activities.

I understand that Australia Day in the National Capital Inc knew about the NCA's plans. The guidelines and fund criteria were explained carefully and the organisation was advised to be particularly clear about how its proposal complemented and did not duplicate the other concert, but that is why it asked for funding. After careful consideration, but not surprisingly, the festival committee felt that two concerts on two consecutive days was not a good use of scarce grant funds.

I now come to a key issue that this motion seems to want to impose. I think members will understand the terminology that I use. I accept responsibility for the decision. I am the minister and, when the application came to me, I questioned this and other recommendations that had been made. I discussed the outcome with the chair of the festival committee and signed off.

I accepted recommendations. I do not have a great big whiteboard in my office and I do not propose to have one. That is the system that the Liberal opposition now seems to want imposed. It does not want a great big whiteboard in my office; it wants a great big whiteboard somewhere behind the Speaker or on the wall in the Assembly. The opposition now want the Assembly to make the decision about grant funding. That is what this motion requires: that the Assembly will now sit in judgment on the applications for grant funds.

If I am to give some funds to the Australia Day in the National Capital Committee, the question arises: where am I going to take the funds from? I announced the distribution of those funds on the recommendation of our funding committee. Which group am I going to write back to and say, "Sorry, the Assembly has overruled this decision. We've got to make adjustments and I'm afraid you're not in it"? Which of the festival groups that got funding are you going to take that money from?

There is a factor here that needs to be understood. The process that may have applied over many years has changed. These funds are now competitive. There is no automatic flow of funds to any organisation. You have got to get out there and compete for funds; they do not come automatically. That seems to me to be eminently fair. That is the process that has been established.

The opposition wants this great big whiteboard. It wants to do all the assessments itself. It does not want a group of people carefully chosen, balanced and all that, to make a decision-as we do with so many funding distribution arrangements in this city-it wants to make the decision here in this chamber. I am not sure that is a very good way to go.

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