Page 1533 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 7 May 2008

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Our future sustainability is a key concern of the community. Many organisations urged the government to take decisive action in addressing climate change in this budget, as in the previous one. In the 2008-09 budget, the government is providing an additional $100 million for initiatives aimed at meeting the challenge of climate change. Measures have been—(Time expired.)

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (4.31): I think Mr Smyth was right in that I am not sure that the basis for the MPI was appreciated by the government members. I listened to Ms Porter’s and Mr Stanhope’s speeches and I think they thought this was a generic point about participating in the ACT budget, whereas in fact, if you are a reader of Dr Foskey’s blog, which I am from time to time, you would have understood that this was related to her study tour, which I followed closely, including the photos, because I take a keen interest in these matters. I have also been to Brazil. I have to confess that when I went to Brazil, I probably was not operating in quite the same dimension as Dr Foskey. I did not find time to get to the favellas in Rio, but I appreciate that she has taken the trouble to acquaint herself with these matters, and I have not been involved in study tours.

Dr Foskey: I can’t see you in a favella!

MR MULCAHY: No. They do have tours, Dr Foskey, believe it or not, for tourists, but I did not think it was appropriate, going through.

I will say a few words on Dr Foskey’s MPI. Obviously, given that recent study tour, it was quite fortuitous for her to get an MPI up, especially considering the problems that would cause for the opposition with theirs. I must admit that, before I started researching in order to make these remarks, participatory budgeting was not a subject that I knew a great deal about. Certainly, before I saw Dr Foskey’s MPI, I did not envisage coming into the Assembly today to talk about a budgetary system introduced by a Marxist party in a regional city of Brazil.

Nonetheless, as I now understand it, participatory budgeting is—and this is, I stress, a theoretical definition that I do not believe would work in practice—a process of democratic deliberation and decision making that involves ordinary residents in deciding how to allocate a municipal budget. I understand the process was first developed in the Brazilian city of Portalegre in 1989. It involves the identification of spending priorities by community members, the election of budget delegates to represent different communities, facilitation of technical assistance by public servants, and then for local and higher level assemblies to deliberate and vote on spending priorities and implementation of local, direct-impact community projects. It is clearly quite a complex and intensive process.

Frankly, I can well imagine the sort of chaos that can result from such a convoluted process. It would not be, I imagine, a happy gathering of minds who calmly select the best projects for public expenditure; rather, I fear it would be driven by the most vocal and organised sections of the community. It would also, I suspect, be a process that does not reject many requests for expenditure. In trying to meet the needs of every different community group, I imagine that public money is spent with a level of enthusiasm, without fiscal responsibility being the prevailing consideration.

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