Page 138 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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Public Accounts—Standing Committee


Debate resumed.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (6.25): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank members for giving us this opportunity to at least have the debate. I think it is right and proper that we do have the debate. The problem with what the government have presented is—and I quote from the minister’s speech: “This bill delivers on the election commitments which we indicated through the campaign would be introduced immediately.” This bill purports to fund election commitments. But if you look at the bill, Mr Speaker, you will see that in the first year, this year, there will be $16 million worth of additional expenditure. If you go back to the government’s own documents that the Treasury compiled, their commitment for this first year, 2008-09, was only $6 million. So there is $10 million more of expenditure in this year than the government proposed in the budget. So, clearly, less than 40 per cent of what the government seeks to have approved is for election commitments; the rest is other expenditure. The people of the ACT deserve to know that we have done our job, because that is clearly one of the messages that was sent to the government and to all of us in this place through the election—they want proper scrutiny and they want accountability.

At first blush you would think that some of these things are quite fine. If you look at some of the early pages, there is money, for instance, in Justice and Community Safety for Alexander Maconochie—additional transitional expenses of $2.174 million. It is just transitional expenses; that might mean whatever it might mean. But if you go to the detail and you eventually get the briefing—and I thank the minister for the briefing; I had about 45 minutes with officials during the break and they have taken a large number of questions on notice—the transitional arrangements are in fact to pay for the keeping of ACT prisoners in New South Wales because the government has stuffed up yet again the delivery of another major capital work. And the prison that was so blithely opened before the election but which now has no prisoners and will have no prisoners for another couple of months is going to cost the taxpayer $2.174 million in additional expenditure because, yet again, the government did not deliver a capital work on time, on budget. They have failed yet again.

Indeed, there is a $1.6 million capital injection for business re-engineering inside the department of education. What does that mean? Why is this necessary, and how many additional facilities will it lead to the closing of? When you go to page 115 it says:

This initiative provides funding for the consolidation of DET administrative and school support staff. This will allow for a reduction in the number of sites held by DET.

I do not know how many sites are being reduced. I do not know what the implication of that is. I do not know what the $1.6 million capital is and I do not know what the depreciation is. I have placed questions on notice and I expect them to yield some answers; from that, I expect to ask more questions. But the very fact that the minister

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