Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2127 ..
The Chief Minister’s office or the Chief Minister’s Department were either totally out to lunch and did not give a stuff about undertaking adequate prior community consultation or they were part of a broader movement of government agencies and government mates to ram through, beneath the radar, a $2,000 million project. Only then did we see a government backdown—and a backdown, I reckon, only because the Chief Minister and his department were sprung; they were not able to ram this project through under subterfuge at all.
What we have seen here is either the Chief Minister’s Department demonstrating itself to be severely wanting or other issues which have never been explained clearly have come into play. Clearly, there is a range of very significant questions about the role of the Chief Minister’s office, the Chief Minister himself and his department in this particular matter—and that fundamental concern about a fundamental project under project management does not reflect well on the government, and does not reflect well on this budget analysis process.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (7.59): The Chief Minister’s Department has been a hub of increases in staffing in both the previous and current budgets. Whilst I know that a number of members have devoted a large part of tonight’s discussion to the power station and that saga, I do not intend to focus my remarks tonight in terms of this budget item on those issues. There is a bit of “groundhog day” sense in this place: the same stuff seems to be going around and around.
At the end of the day, I think it is important that we focus on the budget line items as well as reliving the events of this week. The increases certainly belie the government’s claim that this is a budget for the long term. In fact, the budget of the Chief Minister’s Department is consistent with the fact that the government has developed an election year budget with large amounts of resources going to assist the Chief Minister in the lead-up to the election.
I noted when I spoke on the budget in May that this is quintessentially an election year budget, replete with large spending increases and all manner of vote-winning projects, including over $6 million on festivals. The government have made much of staffing increases in ACT Health, alleging that this shows their commitment to front-line services. If we look at these figures, we see that staffing at ACT Health increased by 5.06 per cent in 2007-08 and is budgeted to increase by a further 1.87 per cent in 2008-09.
It is interesting to compare this with the staffing increases in the Chief Minister’s Department. The budget figures show that staffing in that department increased by 33.7 per cent in the 2007-08 fiscal year and is budgeted to increase by a further 9.04 per cent in 2008-09. This increase in staff in 2007-08 was the fourth highest rate of increase after the ICRC, Actew Corporation and the much beloved LDA. The budgeted increase in staff in 2008-09 is the fifth highest rate of increase after the superannuation provision account, ACTIA, the LDA and the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. In other words, instead of focusing on core services, as the government claims, it has instead chosen to employ more advisers and spin doctors for ACT government policies. If the spin doctoring is as good as the Chief Minister gave us tonight on television, I am happy to hear more of that, but I suspect that is not where the focus will be going.