Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 June 2009) . . Page.. 2367 ..
group together. I would like to thank the ministers who came and answered questions and all the public service staff who also came and, in general, contributed very positively to the estimates process.
I gather that in previous years we had not used the line of questioning technique; this year we did. I found it a very useful way of trying to get to the heart of what a particular program or matter was about. This year was also the first time we had expert advice in economic matters. I found that was very useful and reassuring as someone who would not claim to be an expert economist.
There were, unfortunately, some incidents in the estimates process which were less than desirable but, hopefully, we can all learn from those and do better next time.
I am a new member of the Assembly, and there were three new members of the Assembly on the committee. With that in mind, I would point out that both the estimates committee and the Greens actually asked the Treasurer for more technical information about how the budget is put together—things which to more experienced members, like Mr Smyth, are second nature—like: what is the difference between GPO, gross payments of outputs, and the estimated outputs and all the other figures in the budget? It is not obvious to me what they were. How do you find out what the expenditure is on ongoing programs? There is just this one line in the budget.
A lot of the questions were because the information was not there. Treasury refused to give us a briefing on these technical aspects, which I think was a mistake, because, presumably, that would have reduced the number of questions which we asked, which possibly to the people answering them were self-evident but which, I can assure you, were not self-evident to the people asking them.
Moving along, strategic and accountability indicators were a persistent theme throughout all budget areas and I think all members spoke about them to a greater or lesser extent. All departments reported, in fact, on only a few or, in some cases, no indicators. DECCEW, which, admittedly, is a new department, had no actual indicators. This is development. Its only indicator was that it existed. This led to three recommendations—recommendations 3, 4 and 5 of the committee—all of which deal with accountability and sustainability indicators in some form. Everywhere we could see this was an issue, and we spoke about it with every department.
During the hearings, Andrew Cappie-Wood, who is the Chief Executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, actually made mention in questioning of the progress the Chief Minister’s Department is making on triple bottom-line accounting and reporting and told us that they were finding it difficult to figure out how to relate spending to social environmental benefits. We think that bringing relevant indicators for these key strategies directly into the budget will help everyone within the departments, in the Assembly and in the public realm generally get to understand how the budget spending is being prioritised against budget priorities generally. That was one of our recommendations.
I do appreciate that annual reports do have more information and, importantly, they have more strategic and accountability indicators in them. But, firstly, annual reports are not consolidated into one document, which makes it very hard to pursue the