LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I have resigned from the Estimates Committee because Labor has turned the whole Budget Estimates process into a farce.
The length of time we have to scrutinise Ministers is halved and there will be less than one hour to scrutinise each of the 29 portfolio areas and each of the three Government Owned Corporations (GOC).
In all reality there will only be time to ask as few as 4 to 5 questions on each area, depending on the length of the answers Ministers choose to provide.
This all makes for an estimates process that does not allow for proper scrutiny of Government. I believe Territorians deserve better.
In the May sittings the Labor Government changed the Budget Estimates process from 60 hours to 30 hours in June. In exchange they have added 30 hours of questioning on Annual Reports in November, which has a limited scope.
The Budget estimates process is the best opportunity we have in Parliament to ask the difficult questions and to drill down and find out what is really happening inside government. It is wrong that this new Labor Government is running away from scrutiny.
This Government is not opening the Parliament up to the people. It is actually shutting it down, and instead of being a part of this this sideshow I will be submitting all my questions as formal written questions through the formal Parliamentary process.
Robyn Lambley (pictured chairing the Public Accounts Committee in 2015)
Independent Member for Araluen
In a joint statement MLAs Gary Higgins, Gerry Wood, Lia Finocchiaro, Mrs Lambley, Kezia Purick and Terry Mills have called the government’s actions “an act of high-handed arrogance … scrapping established convention and imposing its own schedule, further limiting our capacity to scrutinise spending on behalf of Territorians”.
They say: “These steps are in stark contrast to Labor’s promise it would restore trust to Government.
“How can cutting Budget scrutiny by half and inflicting the Government’s own schedule on those responsible for holding them to account be fair, open or transparent?
“Labor’s Budget delivers the biggest deficit ever in the Territory’s history, but the shortest time for Ministers to be scrutinised. What does this Government have to hide?
“In order to make a very clear statement we will not support a sham process, we announce today we are stepping aside from the Estimates hearings until Government listens to – and acts upon – the very reasonable concerns we have raised.
“In acknowledgement of the hard work done by Territory public servants, the Opposition will provide the Clerk with written copies of the questions we have prepared for Estimates.”
UPDATE June 6:
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – We came to Government promising to restore trust after four years of CLP chaos and we believe Estimates is important – the Independents and CLP Opposition need to turn up and do the job Territorians pay them to do.
This year we have a new model of Estimates, something that we flagged well ahead of the last election and we are asking people to give it a go.
The changes will see 30 hours of scrutiny applied to the government’s budget in June and another 30 hours to scrutinise annual reports and what that expenditure has achieved in November.
This replaces the old system of 60 hours that focused just on the budget and that we saw treated with arrogance and total contempt by the previous CLP Government.
The previous Martin Labor Government brought in the Estimate process and there will be no reduction in the time spent on Estimates.
We acknowledge that Estimates is a massive undertaking for the Public Service. We also know that there is a lot of hard work put into Agency Annual Reports. We are opening up the scrutiny twice a year to make that what we said we would deliver, we are actually delivering.
Leader of Government Business