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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 June 2009) . . Page.. 2301 ..

Estimates 2009-2010—Select Committee—Report (3 volumes)—Appropriation Bill 2009-2010, dated 15 June 2009, including a dissenting report (Ms Burch), together with a copy of the minutes of proceedings and answers to questions on notice and questions taken on notice (2 volumes).

I move:

That the report be noted.

This report is a lengthy one, which examines the budget in as much detail as is possible in such a short space of time and with a government which is so reluctant to give information either in hearings or through questions on notice. I will come back to that.

First, I would like to thank members of the secretariat who worked so hard to bring the report together under difficult circumstances. I would particularly like to thank Grace Concannon and Hannah Jaireth for their outstanding work. Second, I would like to thank committee members. For the most part, members of the committee worked well together, particularly during the laborious deliberations phase.

The report does not represent all of what any individual member would like. I would personally have liked to have seen more recommendations and discussions about savings and how to get the budget into surplus. No doubt other members would have liked other things in the report which are not there. That said, what is there is a reflection of the will of the committee, and what is reflected in this multiparty report is damning at a number of levels for the Stanhope-Gallagher government.

There is unlikely to be dispute that this was a difficult process. It was not easy; it was not comfortable; it has been criticised by both those questioned and those asking the questions but it was necessary. The role of the committee system in a single chamber cannot be underestimated. It is our sole opportunity to inquire deeply, to ask the uncomfortable questions, to pursue lines of inquiry otherwise avoided and to uncover answers to questions that deserve to be asked in the interests of open and accountable government.

As the committee delved ever deeper, a range of revelations were uncovered. Sifting through the myriad, sometimes conflicting evidence, analysing the results and distilling those findings and recommendations into a refined, defined and coherent assessment, three clear themes emerged that permeated nearly all levels of inquiries.

Given there are over 200 pages, I cannot deal with all these issues but I will focus on three key findings or themes: the government’s lack of a clear and credible plan to return the budget to surplus, with hidden aspects not explained; the willingness of ministers in this government to misuse public resources for their own ends and to politicise and compromise our hardworking public servants; and the contempt that some ministers showed for the process of estimates and accountability to the Assembly through a failure to answer questions, through misrepresentation and, in one case, by simply thumbing his nose at the committee and refusing to show up. I will use extracts from the committee report to demonstrate these themes.

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