Page 1525 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 7 May 2008

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At the heart of the discussion that Dr Foskey has generated is the desirability of open, transparent and accountable government and methods that we each might use to better embrace those sectors of our community that we imagine or know have difficulty in engaging. In the context of the discussion on participatory budgeting—and it is a concept that there is some discussion and some literature on or about—it is a quite broad concept. It is much broader than just ensuring that governments are transparent, open and accountable and that they do engage. The notion of openness, transparency and accountability is entirely consistent with the principles that Dr Foskey has just been enunciating in relation to participatory budgeting.

We have always sought in government to be open, transparent and accountable, and we have always sought to be fair and equitable in our dealings with citizens and representative organisations that represent our citizens. I am sure that we would all claim the same. The extent to which we succeed or fail in those endeavours is perhaps for others to judge or to comment on.

Consistent with the commitment that my government has made to openness and transparency, to consultation and to general engagement, we have made quite significant changes to the entire budget process to enhance that transparency, that accountability and that openness. The government has simplified the legislative and audit framework to reduce the audit and compliance burden while maintaining accountability. The government has developed a framework of performance measures that is more relevant to the needs of users and provides meaningful information on the performance of agencies and service areas of government. The issues around performance measures and reporting frameworks are at one level quite vexed. It is something that I note that all governments have grappled with. We strive continually to improve the framework that we apply to our budgets.

The government constantly strives to improve the format and presentation of budget papers. Officers throughout our departments always work on new formatting and different formatting, and on presentation and different presentation, seeking always to improve it and to enhance it to better provide information on the government’s objectives and goals, its decisions on resource allocation and the targets to be achieved by agencies, service areas and the government.

The government also seeks to fulfil its commitment through this process of allowing every community group in the ACT to have a say in the annual budget process. And by seeking to allow every community group the opportunity of having a say, we are seeking to allow every citizen a say through that particular process.

It is acknowledged that participatory budgeting programs are innovative policy-making processes that are designed to incorporate citizens into policy making. They are designed to encourage administrative reform and to distribute public resources to high-need areas. In its pure form, participatory budgeting brings local communities closer to the decision making of the annual budget. It establishes a process where the effects of people’s involvement are directly seen in policy changes and spending priorities. It is not just about consultation; it is about direct engagement and, essentially, the facilitation of a very deliberate democracy.

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