Page 2054 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005
dissenting report highlights a number of serious deficiencies in the budget that we think are worth raising. We think it is important that they should be raised. We think most of them are not reflected, certainly not to any large extent, in the main report, which is why they are in the dissenting report.
Some of these major deficiencies include in particular the persistent failure of the government to control expenditure; the profligate use of revenue windfalls; the related increase in taxes and charges to be paid by ACT residents and businesses; incremental spending instead of resetting priorities; failure to allocate expenditure to high priority community needs; the waste of scarce public resources on items of essentially passing interest and ideological indulgence of little use to the vast majority of the community; the lack of proper provision for the future, with several programs underfunded; failure of the government to abide by its laws; and the difficulty faced by the committee in analysing the budget because of deficiencies in the budget’s presentation, including a lack of transparency and the absence of historical data on expenditure and revenue. That summarises our position, which is reflected in our significant report. This significant document deals with a lot of these issues, and I would commend it to members to read, compare and contrast with the budget.
The chair has raised the issue of scrutiny and the importance of the estimates process in scrutinising the government regardless of who the chair is. I think it is clear that the theme in respect of the government’s willingness to submit to scrutiny was set very early in this process. Initially it was proposed that there be a majority of government members and certainly it was a case of having control of proceedings through the committee chair as a result of a deal with Dr Foskey, and in my opinion that was played out throughout the proceedings.
Ms MacDonald spoke about the relative levels of cooperation by the opposition. It seems that the ideal level of cooperation would have been for me and Mr Mulcahy to just go home or to not argue anything. It seems that whenever there was an argument, whenever we put an alternative point of view, that was somehow being obstructionist and that was somehow slowing the process down and affecting the ability of the estimates committee to do its work. I put it to the house that what we did was completely the opposite—that we were upholding what the estimates process is about, and that is scrutiny of the government and engaging in vigorous debate on the issues. We were certainly prepared to debate those issues. It is unfortunate that on most occasions the numbers were used to shut that down so there was not any real debate in the process.
Before I move on to some of the issues in the report, I would like to refer quickly to a couple of matters that have been raised. We heard Dr Foskey talk in her rather intriguing fashion about how the process affects men and women. She also talked about the chair being impartial. I agree that impartiality is a crucial aspect of chairmanship. But this quality was frequently and sadly lacking. I might extract one comment from the transcript that shows some of her impartiality. The chair said:
You might like to comment as well, Chief Minister, on our ability to purchase and build buildings and then have Liberal governments sell off the entire farm.
I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but that does not sound like impartiality to me. That sounds like partisanship on the part of the chair, and that is something that was in