Page 3021 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008
Mr Deputy Speaker, the functional review is the key document of this government. It was produced in 2006—mid term one might say—and it has flavoured every budget that has occurred since. It has been presented as secret cabinet business. I believe that not even members of the Labor caucus know all of its contents, if they know very much at all; so this is executive government playing at its most secretive. This is the very thing that is of greatest concern to citizens and a very strong and great threat to democracy. In this case, Mr Deputy Speaker, it has even been used to erode the processes of this Assembly itself.
The functional and strategic review has informed the major financial and budgetary decisions, yet the public accounts committee, which has the job of keeping an eye on exactly those expenditures, has not been given access to it. As a public and as an Assembly—as elected representatives—we have learned more from leaks than we have learned from the government about this particular document. Really, one has to ask: is this responsible government? Is this transparent government? Is this accountable government? And the answer would have to be no resoundingly to each of those questions.
What are the ramifications of this secret review? First of all and primarily, they are economic ramifications. Mid term one could be cynical enough to suggest that it was about making the hard decisions at a time when it would be a way of storing up money for the election year. Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, that appears to be what happened. Of course, the cuts made by the strategic and functional review freed up revenue at a cost—by savagely cutting government programs. It did allow, perhaps, more expenditure on capital works and other programs that the government saw as more beneficial to its chances in the election.
Mr Corbell: Or perhaps even to the community.
DR FOSKEY: One cannot know this because one does not have the functional review in front of us. So everything that Mr Corbell says is said with the knowledge that he has had access to a document that the rest of the Assembly has not, and I do not believe it gives him any moral superiority whatsoever.
One wonders if this review has been kept from us because it is a fairly shonky job. I think that is a fair assumption. We do know, for instance, that it only took a very straight-line financial approach. That much we do know, because we can be fairly clear from its impact that there was no social impact analysis. This is because we saw many cuts which ministers had to argue for really without any moral justification.
We saw the Minister for Disability and Community Services, Ms Gallagher, arguing that the cuts to SAP were quite justified. Yet in the last few years we have seen the reduction of services to people receiving SAP services, we have seen a reduction of SAP providers and I do not think there is any evidence out there that there have been social benefits arising from those cuts. Of course, perhaps the hardest one was Mr Barr’s role in defending the savage cuts to our public school system that he had to announce in the same year in relation to the so-called 2020 vision for education.
There are some very severe results of this that the community has felt. The community felt the results of the functional review but we never, ever saw it and we