Page 1421 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2006

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What happened was that Mr Quinlan took $10 million of the Treasurer’s advance because they had not used it during the year. They wanted to embarrass the former Liberal government and create some sort of illusion of a black hole because we left them rolling in so much cash. Of course, they could not make that stick.

In the lead-up to the budget in 2002, the Treasurer, at the last minute, in about May, flips $10 million out of the Treasurer’s advance for this seemingly good cause of fire safety upgrades. But, under questioning and under FOI, it was revealed that the money went before it had been decided how it would be spent. That is not how the Treasurer’s advance works. Some of the quotes from that article are:

Labor’s Ted Quinlan said yesterday he regretted his alleged misuse of $10 million of Treasurer’s advance before the last Budget.

In June last year, he allocated $10 million in emergency funding for fire safety upgrades to public housing.

But the auditor-general has since questioned the legality of his actions.

Then it goes on to say:

But under questioning from the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, he admitted he could have chosen to record the liability on the account without paying any funds at the time—a journal entry—and now he wished he had.

It goes on to say:

He confirmed yesterday that he had given verbal instructions for departments to spend all money available to them that financial year, because he didn’t want to be “picking up the tab” for the previous government.

I wonder what sort of use of the Treasurer’s advance we are going to find out about at the end of this financial year. The house is to be informed regularly, within a certain number of sitting days, of any use, and we have not had much notification of that. One would assume the pot is still full.

I draw to the attention of members how life changes. We had formally a Treasurer desperately running the budget down so that he could claim that the former Liberal government had left the territory’s finances in a mess. As you would all recall, we asked regularly to see how the upgrades were coming along. Perhaps we need to ask again, because the last time we asked there were still some moneys that had not been expended, even though many, many years had passed since the Treasurer’s advance had been so desperately used.

It may well be that there is money left over this year in the Treasurer’s advance. I am sure that is cash that the cash-strapped government could apply to its financial woes. Perhaps there is a lesson in all of this about good financial management starting from the day you come to government, not three or four years down the track.

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