Page 2318 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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$688 million. That is entirely wrong. It is a figure that represents a complete lack of understanding of the budget and accounting processes of the territory. The only other alternative is—how do I put it politely?—that it is an outrageous spin on the budget and a spin that would entirely mislead anybody who actually believed and accepted that that figure existed.

The truth is that we have a budget process, we bring down a budget, and, as we will today, we debate the associated appropriation bill. The appropriation bill is not exactly in the same amounts of money as the budget because the appropriation bill relates to cash, whereas there are some accounting provisions made in the budget, and then there are, as time goes by, quite a number of accounting adjustments that occur as measurement changes or as events take place that do not have to do with additional expenditures.

When additional expenditures are identified as being necessary there are then, of course, supplementary appropriation bills brought down, and even then not all of those appropriate funds that were not previously budgeted. I think most people understand that. It has been discussed in this place before that occasionally, for example, there have been wage negotiations which have been provided for in the budget but which have not been appropriated.

Mr Mulcahy: Gifts. Handouts.

MR QUINLAN: This is not nonsense, mate. You blokes really got it wrong; you really got it wrong. If there had been much more analysis of what you guys have said in the last weeks on the budget in our media, you would be, and should be, severely embarrassed at just how wrong you got it. You actually went out and tried to give this impression of a massive overspend that did not occur.

Let me talk to you about some of the changes that actually contribute to the difference between an original budget and the final annual report figure: for example, the writing off of assets destroyed in the bushfire, “a profligate misuse of windfall gains”. Assets destroyed in a fire no longer exist. Write them off and put it through the books. It goes to the bottom line, but it is not expenditure. The list can go on and on. The point is that the major part, the lion’s share, of the figure that you fools wagged about had nothing to do—

MR SPEAKER: Order! Withdraw that.

MR QUINLAN: I withdraw it, but let me say that it is disappointing to have to be involved in a debate about the misuse of figures for which there can only be two reasons: one, you do not understand; or, two, you wanted to mislead people. I think the first really applies.

I have seen Mr Smyth over the last few years embarrass himself when anywhere near numbers. But you would reckon that you would get a bit of help. You would reckon that you would get someone around you to read them to you if you cannot read them. It has to be a matter of record in this place that, in responding to the budget, both Mr Brendan Smyth and Mr Richard Mulcahy showed a complete misunderstanding of the process that successively they have supposedly been the shadow spokesperson for. God help us if they ever pretended to get near government!

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