Page 1528 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 7 May 2008

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I could go through a number of initiatives being pursued that satisfy that definition. In relation to the last budget, we wrote to 300 separate or different organisations inviting them all to contribute to the budget. Sixty-seven of those 300 invitees provided a response or submission. Just in the last two days, I have heard Chris Peters say, “It is fantastic. We made a submission. We engaged. Of the 17 recommendations we made, 10 were accepted. We are incredibly pleased.” I heard Chris Faulks from the Business Council say exactly the same thing: “In our submission the government has taken on board the majority of the submissions or recommendations which the Business Council made in our engagement with it directly on the budget.” Both those organisations were represented on the Skills Commission and had their input through that particular process in any event.

I am really pleased that Dr Foskey has generated this discussion. It is important. It is interesting too that, through her trip, Dr Foskey came upon a process in another jurisdiction of consultation that has stimulated her to the point where she has generated the discussion today. It is a great result or outcome that she has shared her experience; it is food for thought. We can always do better; we can always do more. We should not be complacent. Dr Foskey reminds us of that today.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.15): The Chief Minister has missed the point of the motion. It is not about participation in budgeting; it is about participatory budgeting, which is quite a specific process where numbers are given to the members of the population for them to decide what that money will be spent on. Perhaps there is a sense of defensiveness over his own budget performance that is reflected in what he has just said. If you actually look at what it is about, it is about saying, “Here we have a budget. Here is a section for you to decide. You the people—you decide.” It is not about the allusion: “We do this because we have the Skills Commission; they said, ‘We want some things’ and we put some money to it.”

If the Chief Minister had worked out what participatory budgeting actually is, he would have found that it is this. “Here is the Skills Commission report; here is the pot of money that we want to spend on it. You tell us which elements you want.” It is very different from what the Chief Minister has talked about.

One should always have an open mind on ideas that are put on the table. In the history of self-government, the only attempt at greater participation in the budgeting process has been the one under the Carnell government back in 2001, when a draft budget was put before the people of the ACT through the committee system. Members of the public could come and tell us exactly what they wanted the money spent on; that advice, through the committees, was fed back to the government. That did not work particularly well—I suggest because of constraints and time frames. I refer Dr Foskey to what Ms Tucker said:

Perhaps this draft budget process idea will not work because we cannot fit it into the timetable.

That is the timetable that the government sets.

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