Page 2109 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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estimated that this would mean a difference between eight audits per year currently and four.

The audit office is still struggling to retain staff and attract quality people in an environment where the private sector can pay higher salaries. Certainly, this year’s budget allocation does not improve the Auditor-General’s ability to pay higher wages. The audit office relies upon the public accounts committee to advocate for it in the budget round. Obviously, the public accounts committee cannot be present at cabinet meetings to argue the toss. I would be interested to know if any of our ministers are so concerned to have their agencies properly scrutinised that they actually go into cabinet, into the budget skirmish, cheering for more audit office resources. Sadly, I think not. It is left to the public accounts committee, which by convention has a non-government chair and has all the power that it can put into a letter.

I note that the estimates committee recommended that the request for $220,000 funding be reconsidered and I note that the government has refused this. I believe that a well-resourced Auditor-General’s office could be of assistance to government. It is obvious, for instance, that Treasury is struggling with the implementation of triple-bottom-line reporting. Perhaps the audit office could step in and give Treasury a hand in delivering on a promise made over four years ago.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (5.19): This is a very significant appropriation for the Auditor-General of the ACT. An expenditure of $2 million needs to be noted, as that is just under half of the appropriation for the executive. As has been acknowledged, within the last two years, the audit office has received the most significant pro rata funding increase of all ACT government-funded agencies. That gives the lie to any suggestion that the requests or representations of the Auditor-General’s Office for increases in funding are ignored by this government or that this government does not respond to the needs of the Auditor-General. We understand the fundamental and central role of the auditor and the Auditor-General’s Office. I could be corrected on this, but I would be prepared to guarantee that there is not a single ACT government-funded agency which in this budget round did not make representations to the government for a significant increase in its funding base in just the way that the Auditor-General’s Office did.

One of the difficult issues or aspects of government is to prioritise investment or funding. In this particular instance, the Auditor-General was not successful, but, over the last couple of years, the Auditor-General’s Office has been extremely successful in attracting additional funds. Singling the Auditor-General’s Office out for particular attention in relation to this and to suggest that the Auditor-General’s Office provides such a fundamental role that its needs should be put ahead of the Canberra Hospital or Calvary Hospital or policing or community safety or education is to suggest that there should be a special rule that applies.

Every single ACT government agency, instrumentality or authority through this last budget process made requests, suggestions and representations for additional funding to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, which ultimately were not successful. This was one amongst many that was not successful. That is the basis of budgeting.

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