Page 5600 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 9 December 2009
There are jurisdictions like the ACT that must publish a budget review or update by a certain date. The commonwealth is required to publish its midyear economic and fiscal outlook by 31 January or six months after the last budget, whichever is later. Victoria is required to publish a budget update by 15 December each financial year and Western Australia must do so by 31 December. However, none of these jurisdictions prescribe or mandate the period that should be covered by those reviews.
Finally, we come to the jurisdictions that are required to publish their budget reviews by a certain date, on the basis of outcomes for a specified period of time. And there are only two of those: New South Wales, which is required to publish its review by 31 December, based on four months of data to 31 October; and Tasmania, which is required to publish its report by 15 February, based on six months worth of data to 31 December.
The current arrangements under the FMA provide for a flexible approach, if it is needed. The approach ensures the provision of information by no later than 15 February each year but does not preclude the earlier provision of information if it is judged by the government to be appropriate and in the interests of the community.
Mr Smyth’s bill also seeks to incorporate a new provision requiring updates of economic and financial variables. However, Mr Smyth should note that he would have seen that updates already contain a comprehensive assessment of the territory’s performance against its financial policy objectives and strategies, updated financial variables and detailed descriptions of the economic conditions impacting the territory. Therefore, the government will argue that Mr Smyth’s amendments are totally redundant in this regard.
The government, as required by the provisions of the FMA and supplemented through other regular mechanisms and reporting processes, already regularly provides a broad range of financial and performance information to the Legislative Assembly on the state of the territory’s finances and on its economic and financial policies and strategies. I believe, and the government believe, this bill will reduce the flexibility that our current legislation provides to a government if it is needed. It does nothing to improve the quality of the data. It does nothing to enhance or improve the existing accountability to the Assembly and the community.
In closing, I have taken into account Mr Smyth’s interests and views that the midyear review should not occur until February. I have to say I tend to agree that in normal circumstances February is the preferred time of the year to be providing that report and, indeed, in 2010 it will be provided in February. However, I do not think it is necessary to amend legislation when it is a matter that, I think, the parties can talk about, understand each other’s views and, in ideal and normal circumstances, I think it is probably one that we all agree on.
But I do not think we need to have the government’s reporting regime mandated in legislation to this degree of control when there are—and having just been through the last 18 months—some pretty good reasons why we did it in December. I have to say I was being asked every single day, at that point, to update the budget bottom line. It