Page 2391 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 16 June 2009

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The ACT government is a fusion of territory and municipal responsibilities. Indeed, the Chief Minister acknowledged on 11 May 2009 in this place, during our 20th anniversary celebrations, that:

The range of our responsibilities, colliding with our modest size, has created challenges, but has also enforced an intimacy with the reality of the lives of the Canberrans that we serve. Each fortnight we have a reminder of this, during Chief Minister talkback—a reminder that sometimes what matters most, agitates most and affects the quality of life of an individual most is the cracked footpath, the aggravating neighbour, the overhanging tree, the obscured stop sign.

Last year he also declared himself the mayor of Canberra. It is disappointing then, despite this rhetoric, that he continues to ignore and belittle his own local government responsibilities.

During my campaign and since being elected, the single most important theme that has been raised with me is the need to get the basics right. Canberrans want comfort and amenity at local shopping centres, good quality roads, footpaths repaired, streetlights replaced, and buses to run on time.

Rates, fees, charges, bus fares and fines are all going up in this year’s budget while service standards are slipping. The Canberra community have a right to expect answers. But, when asked about these very issues, the Chief Minister cries foul, obviously trying to cover up the failings of his government. I asked a range of questions in relation to ACTION buses, roads, paths, street lighting, parking fees, efficiency dividends, shopping centres and other topics.

The Chief Minister also made some extraordinary claims in relation to questions on notice the other day. I am disappointed it has taken so long for these answers to the questions to be returned. Mr Stanhope’s press release on Wednesday last week claimed that an unprecedented barrage of 2,550 questions in total would take 12,750 public service hours to respond to, at a cost of $1.5 million. I am concerned that, according to these numbers, it takes on average five public service hours to answer each question, at a cost of almost $600 per answer.

If this government was open and accountable, this information would be available at the click of a button, not a $600 public impost. The government must be more accountable with taxpayers’ money and put effective efficiency measures in place to ensure better accountability of government spending.

The outrageous claim that it takes five hours and $600 to answer each question on notice follows from revelations earlier this year that in relation to accounts payable by the Department of Territory and Municipal Services the government could not provide details of incomings and outgoings. Mr Stanhope said:

For the financial periods stated, TAMS was operating its own version of ORACLE which has not been configured to produce the requested information concerning the timeliness of accounts payments.

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