APPROPRIATION (BUDGET VARIATIONS) BILL 2009
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [11.18 a.m.], on behalf of the Hon. Eric Roozendaal: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard
The Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009 is a key part of the annual budget process.
It is not always possible to seek Parliament's authority in advance for unforeseen and urgent expenditure, and provisions have been established for such situations. These include the Treasurer's Advance and section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983.
In the annual Appropriation Act, an advance is appropriated to the Treasurer to cater for unforeseen and urgent expenditures that could not be forecast at Budget time. This bill includes details of expenditure from the Treasurer's Advance, ensuring that there is a transparent accountability process to Parliament.
Under section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, the Treasurer, with the approval of the Governor, determined that amounts were paid from the Consolidated Fund for exigencies of Government, in anticipation of appropriation by Parliament.
This bill provides details of those payments. This bill also seeks approval by the Parliament for the payment of additional appropriations in 2008-09, in which no provision was made in the annual Appropriation Act. These include the bringing forward of payments to the rail and housing sectors, as reported in the 2008-09 Half-Yearly Review, released in December 2008.
The practice of seeking approval for supplementary funding to cover expenditure not provided for in the annual Appropriation Act has now become an important part of the annual budget process.
This is a process that has been endorsed by the Auditor-General as well as the Legislative Council's General Purpose Standing Committee No 1 in its report on appropriation processes.
The bill has three key features:
1. Firstly, it provides an account to Parliament on how the 2008-09 Treasurer's Advance has been applied towards recurrent and capital expenditure, and details of the allocation of the 2007-08 Treasurer's Advance not previously reported to Parliament;
2. Secondly, it seeks appropriations to cover expenditure approved by the Governor under section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983; and
3. Finally, it seeks appropriation for payments which are intended to be made in the current financial year where no provision was made in the annual Appropriation bill.
Schedule 1 of the bill covers appropriations for 2008-09, and schedule 2 covers payments made in 2007-08. The payments for 2007-08 have already been brought to account in agencies' audited financial Statements and have no impact on the published Budget result for that year.
The Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009, in respect of the 2008-09 financial year seeks:
Appropriations of $343.195 million in adjustment of the Advance to the Treasurer;
$10.891 million for recurrent services approved by the Governor under Section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983; and
Additional appropriation of $520.505 million.
Schedule 1 of the bill has a full account of how the Treasurer's Advance has been applied this year.
The allocation of the Treasurer's Advance in 2008-09 highlights the commitment of the Government to ensuring appropriate services for the community, and includes:
$56 million for additional health capital works;
$50 million to Housing New South Wales as part of the $220 million bring forward of funding to stimulate activity in the housing industry;
$40.2 million and $27.5 million for additional health staff pressures and health activity increases, respectively;
$29.1 million for drought assistance programs;
$18.4 million Commonwealth funding received in the prior year that require an appropriation in 2008-09 to various agencies;
$15 million for the increased cost of disabled school student transport; $13.1 million for additional accommodation measures for juvenile offenders; and
$13.1 million in coal compensation payments.
In 2008-09, one approval for $10.891 million was made under Section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 to the Department of Primary Industries for the refund of overpaid mineral royalties.
The additional appropriations in the bill are:
$280 million in additional grants for debt repayment;
$170 million towards the housing stimulus package;
$40 million for the First Home Owner Grant Scheme; and
$30.5 million relating to health expenditure commitments associated with Commonwealth funding received in the prior year for vaccination.
The bill also seeks appropriations for payments made during the 2007-08 financial year approved by the Governor under Section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act, and reporting the payments made under the Treasurer's Advance.
Schedule 2 of the bill details the funding made in 2007-08 and includes;
An additional grant to Rail Corporation's capital works program:
World Youth Day funding;
Land acquisition for the Jervis Bay National Park;
Police Death and Disability Scheme funding;
First Home Owner Grant funding; and
Natural disaster funding.
Each of the payments made in 2007-08 have been included in the audited financial Statements of the relevant agencies for that year.
The practice of introducing further Appropriation bills has enhanced accountability for the expenditure of public moneys from the Consolidated Fund.
It is further evidence of the Government's commitment to transparent and full financial reporting to the Parliament and the community.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX [11.18 a.m.]: It is my pleasure to lead for the Opposition in debate on the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009. As members would be aware, the object of the bill is to appropriate additional amounts from the Consolidated Fund for recurrent services, capital works and services for the years 2008-09 and 2007-08 for the purpose of giving effect to certain budget variations required for the exigencies of government. Indeed, the "exigencies of government" in relation to this Government may well read the "excesses of government". I note that exigencies are meant to be for urgent or unforeseen expenditure that could not be forecast at budget time, and therefore is not covered by the annual budget appropriation Act. In particular, I note that the bill identifies more than $1.4 billion as exigencies—that is $1.4 billion of urgent and unforeseen expenses that the Government could not anticipate at budget time. Indeed, to me it reads like a long confession of just how the Government has mismanaged its budget and failed to ensure that its expenses have been brought under control. It is a confession of the Government's fiscal ill discipline and its failure to show leadership in constraining its expenses in the budgetary process.
Let us examine the facts. Many of the expenses listed in the schedules to the bill are not of an urgent or unforeseen nature. I note that schedule 1 refers to an allocation of $675,000 for recurrent ministerial office expenses. Recurrent ministerial office expenses, by their very nature, are not unforeseen and are not urgent. Rather, they are expenses that should have been anticipated by the relevant ministerial officers at the time of the framing of the original budget.
I also note an allocation of $1,837,000 for the Better Regulation Office—one of my favourites—an office we examined during estimates committee hearings. During the hearings the shadow Minister for Financial Management and Housing Strategy, the Hon. Greg Pearce, and I asked Better Regulation Office representatives straightforward questions about exactly what the office does. It was extremely illuminating when we were told that the officer who represented the Better Regulation Office would have to take the questions on notice! Here we see an allocation of $1,837,000 for an office that does not know what it does. It is quite extraordinary. Indeed, it reminds me of the George Orwell novel 1984
. Perhaps the function of the Better Regulation Office is similar to that of the Ministry of Truth in that great novel. I think there would be much to reflect upon in relation to the way the Government manages itself. Indeed, the way the Government produces media spin on a regular basis is akin to the way Big Brother manages the characters in 1984
—that great literary work by George Orwell.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
Resistance is useless.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX:
Resistance is useless, indeed. I thank the Hon. Catherine Cusack for that interjection.
The Hon. Marie Ficarra:
She's well read.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX:
The Hon. Catherine Cusack is obviously well read. She also obviously well understands the nature of the Government and the lessons one can extract from such a great literary classic. I note an allocation of $40,200,000 for increased employment expenses in the Department of Health. That is a lot of money for increased employment expenses. We clearly understand that in relation to framing budgets these types of contingencies are well known and are accounted for in agency bids during the budgetary process. I note also an allocation of $2,884,000 for the New South Wales Game Council. Clearly, this is another amount that would have been very much in the foreseeable category so far as the budgetary process is concerned.
I note an allocation of $1,200,000 for a management fee for the Department of Commerce to maintain the Government's mobile radio network. The list goes on and on. Clearly, these expenses are not urgent or unforeseen. They should have been dealt with in the normal budgetary bidding process with agencies but the Government simply did not cater for them. Indeed, I note that in respect of many of these expenses the agencies necessarily would have had to consider them in the context of framing the budget. The fact that they turn up in this supplementary appropriation bill goes to the heart of the Government's budgetary process. Why has this occurred? Why do we see such a long list of expenses, comprising many pages, that are of a recurrent nature rather than of an urgent or unforeseen nature?
I believe that goes to the heart of the Government's poor fiscal discipline and the fact that it has shown no leadership in relation to how these agencies must manage their internal budgetary bids. Agencies know that they can get away with it if they need to. The Government has lived off the rivers and rivers of un-budgeted money that has flowed in—more than $17.5 billion over the past 14 years; money the Government has frittered away without accounting for it and exerting fiscal control over the expenses of these agencies. To be fair, the bill contains examples of expenses that are genuinely of an urgent or unforeseen nature. I note, for example, the donation of $1 million to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal, a very noteworthy and appropriate contribution by the Government. I note also the allocation of $764,000 for by-elections in the electorates of Port Macquarie, Ryde, Lakemba and Cabramatta. Indeed, it is difficult to foresee the rats abandoning the ranks and leaving those seats. The Government cannot foresee its own members deciding that it is not worth continuing with the Government.
I note the interjections from members opposite. They are obviously a bit skittish about this. They are obviously a little concerned that there might be a few more by-elections before the State election in 2011. We would hate to see that; it is a big waste of taxpayers' money. The reality is that the majority of the pages of expenses listed in schedules 1 and 2 to the bill are not urgent or unforeseen. They continue to be a testament to the Government's long history of fiscal ill discipline. Indeed, they are a confession of the Government's inability to manage its own budget.
I note that the Government has been advised time and time again that its expenses are out of control. The ratings agencies have threatened the State's triple-A credit rating; we are on negative outlook. The Premier is even backing away from assuring the public about that. These matters are within the Government's purview to control. It is clear that the Government brought down a mini-budget to try to justify its decisions in relation to its budget. Indeed, in that mini-budget the Government made it clear that it was trying to address the structural problems in its budget. Those structural problems were identified time and again, including in the Stokes and Vertigan report released in January 2006, which explained very clearly the problem whereby expenses were growing—and had been growing for the past five years—at a rate greater than the revenue that was coming into the Government.
That is a structural problem that everyone understands. As the Treasurer has said on a number of occasions, running a State budget is just like running a household budget. He asks: If you do not have enough money coming into the household, how do you continue to spend more than you receive? The Treasurer understands a household budget but he does not understand the realities of the New South Wales budget. That is demonstrated when we see bills of this nature, seeking the indulgence of the House to continue the Government's fiscal ill discipline. In relation to the mini-budget that was released five months ago, we saw the Government's mea culpa; we saw it go on bended knee before the ratings agencies. The Government, true to form—
The Hon. Penny Sharpe:
Point of order: Mr President, I ask you to direct members of The Nationals to cease interrupting their Liberal Party colleague. I am finding it difficult to hear the words of the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox across the Chamber.
Order! The Chair is also having difficulty hearing the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox. There is excessive jocularity in the Chamber. Members will cease interjecting and the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox will address the bill.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX:
There is excessive jocularity in the Chamber, and these words are worth hearing. Thank you for your intervention, Mr President. In relation to the mini-budget that was delivered some five months ago, the Government took the unusual step of releasing a mini-budget that was supplementary to the budget. Yet, only five months later the Government again comes before the Parliament seeking an appropriation of $1.4 billion. Why was this not dealt with five months ago in the mini-budget when the Government was reviewing its fiscal situation to secure the State's triple-A rating? The Government failed then to account for the $1.4 billion it now seeks to have ratified. That is incredible, but it is true to form. The Government has a shambolic history of fiscal discipline.
It is appropriate for the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill to come before the House on April Fools' Day. Sadly, it is a sick joke that five months after the mini-budget the Government now seeks another $1.4 billion to cater for its inability to exact fiscal discipline from its agencies. But the joke is really on the people of New South Wales, who will continue to suffer under the yoke of this fiscally inept Labor Government. The Opposition does not have a mandate to oppose this bill but it is the mandate of the Opposition to point out the deficiency of the Government in managing its finances. Will things change? Of course not! We have a Treasurer who will continue in a completely uncontrolled manner and, as a result, the people of New South Wales will continue to suffer.
Dr JOHN KAYE
[11.31 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the Greens on the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009. The bill adjusts amounts from consolidated revenue for the years 2007-08 and 2008-09 to account for the exigencies of government. It is entirely fair and reasonable for governments to have the ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances as they arise: it is not possible to have 100 per cent foresight when framing a budget, nor is it possible to have 100 per cent control over the $47.6 billion that flows through the Government's coffers each year.
This bill is an important accountability mechanism for the people of New South Wales to understand the detail of government spending. The Opposition has argued that a large amount of money is being appropriated through the bill. It claims that the Government is out of control and cannot control the expenditure of its agencies. I am not sure that the Greens agree with that claim but it is important to carefully look at how the proposed expenditure fits as a proportion of the total expenditure of government. Circumstances change as a budget year unfolds. I doubt the Opposition would argue that there should not be a variation to the budget. When the Opposition was in office it varied the budget—possibly by smaller amounts, but it faced different financial circumstances. It had a different approach to government spending, which was far more heavily based on outsourcing, with a reduction in the size of the public sector and the amount of public services delivered to the people of New South Wales.
For the years 2008-09 the total variation under section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act, under adjustments to the account to the Treasurer's Advance is $345 million. In a budget of $47.6 billion that is a variation of 0.74 per cent of the total budget. That cannot be seen as a particularly large variation and must be accepted as a relatively small amount. The figure gets larger in the additional appropriations of $521 million or about 1.09 per cent of the total budget. Those two figures taken together represent about 1.83 per cent of the total budget. Of the $521 million, $280 million is to be allocated for rail debt repayment. That is a repeat of what happened last year. This is seen as an opportunity to reduce debt and hence reduce debt interest, which is a positive thing. I invite the Parliament Secretary to listen carefully to this. Why was the additional $280 million to reduce rail debt not foreseen at budget time? Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to reduce rail debt. The sum of $31 million is to be allocated for a vaccination program to respond to Federal Government investment. That is a program that has evolved over the years and it is entirely appropriate additional expenditure.
The sum of $170 million is to be allocated to public housing dwelling upgrades and the purchase of new public housing dwellings. The Government should be congratulated on putting money into the public housing sector. Not only does that stimulate the economy; it also addresses the appalling shortfall of public housing opportunities within the State. The economy has dramatically changed since the budget was delivered, with an increased need for public housing and stimulation of the economy. The sum of $40 million is to be allocated to the First Home Owners Grant scheme. The need to keep the housing construction industry alive has also changed, and that allocation is also understandable. The total $521 million in additional appropriations should be classified as worthwhile and important for the economy. The only question mark remains as to why $280 million, or roughly half of it, was unforeseen in the budget, but I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will respond to that in reply.
The sum of $11 million for coal royalties under section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act is relatively limited and effectively amounts to an adjustment of accounts. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me on that if I am wrong. The $343 million to be allocated in the Treasurer's Advance is a mixed bag. A substantial proportion of it is highly sensible and unpredictable but nonetheless extremely worthy. The sum of $127 million is to go to the health budget for expenditure on things such as prostate cancer and healthy activities. The importance of increased expenditure on preventative medicine to bring down biomedicine costs in the long run should be acknowledged. That is a good investment. As identified by the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox, $1 million is to be allocated to the Victorian Bushfires Red Cross Appeal, which is an entirely sensible and humanitarian investment of public money. The sum of $15 million is to be allocated to increase disabled school student transport. The more the Greens speak to the parents and teachers of students with disabilities the more the need for increased expenditure on transporting special needs students to and from school is understood, and $15 million is a clearly worthwhile expenditure. There is expenditure of $8.9 million for responding to unforeseen emergency services events and $15.4 million—which I note Matthew Mason-Cox did not refer to—for emergency drought relief.
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox:
A very appropriate level of expenditure.
Dr JOHN KAYE:
I acknowledge the interjection of Matthew Mason-Cox: $15.4 million is sensible expenditure on drought relief. The State and the community must have a conversation about how we deal with chronically drought-affected properties and how we respond to communities in desperate straits as a result of the drought, which in some parts of the State has been ongoing for 10 years and, regrettably, showing no signs of breaking. That is another conversation for another day. But it is an important conversation the State must have about supporting those communities through a very long drought or a drought that never breaks, which we hope is not the case. Some of the $343 million in the Treasurer's Advance is unpredictable and unavoidable and not particularly pleasant. For example, the by-elections at Port Macquarie, Lakemba, Cabramatta and Ryde were unforeseeable and unavoidable. They were a necessary part of the business of running government.
I question some of the expenditures in the Treasurer's Advance. In particular, two expenditures stick out. The first is $3.1 million for additional policing costs for World Youth Day. Was World Youth Day overpoliced? The Government has not given any explanation for the extraordinarily heavy presence of police or of the security benefits gained from that $3.1 million. Further, why was an additional expenditure of $2.8 million for the Game Council New South Wales not predictable at the time of the budget? Is that expenditure in the community's interest? The Government continues to pour money into the Game Council, which runs advertisements using public funds to promote fundamentally minority activities considered by many to be against the public interest. What is the justification for an additional $2.8 million to the Game Council to advertise an activity that is promoted by one political party, which has a tendency to vote with the Government when needed? Was that $2.8 million exigency money spent because the Government needed votes or was it for a public policy reason? I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to address the expenditure for the promotion of the so-called sport of shooting.
The Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009 and its predecessor raise the questions: Are these signs of a government out of control? Are they reasonable expenditures? Part of the answer lies in the underlying budget strategy of the Government—an issue that has been canvassed by the Opposition and the Government in the lower House and by the Opposition in the upper House. There is a growing understanding in the community that the economic and fiscal strategies of the Government are being formulated in a climate of fear dictated by the rating agencies and their ability to drop the Government's credit rating. In the lead-up to the Queensland State election the Queensland Government lost it triple-A rating. Fascinatingly enough, the sky in Queensland did not fall in. Anna Bligh went on to win the election with an unpredictably comfortable margin. The people of Queensland clearly were not concerned about losing the triple-A rating, and nor was Anna Bligh or her Treasurer. In fact, in their public utterances throughout the campaign they tossed off the whole issue of the triple-A rating. Was it just election rhetoric or were they really afraid deep down, as the Treasurer has said in this place on a number of occasions? Perhaps the Queensland Labor Government does not have a fear of the rating agencies and does not allow its economic policy to be driven by the same people who gave a triple-A rating to the sub-prime product that brought the world's financial system to its knees and, consequently and tragically, the world's economic system to its knees.
The Hon. Greg Pearce:
They lost the rating. So they had to go into spin control. They would hardly say they still stood for a triple-A credit rating when they had lost it.
Dr JOHN KAYE:
That may be so. I would be interested in the Parliamentary Secretary's opinion on that issue. Greg Pearce says it was purely spin. There is a clear disjuncture between the public statements of the Queensland Labor Government and the New South Wales Labor Government on the importance of the triple-A credit rating. That is a matter of public record in both cases, and it is a matter that needs to be resolved. It raises the question why we allow its economic policy to be dictated by people who have been thoroughly discredited in international capital markets and in the eyes of the people of New South Wales and around the world. Why are we selling off the electricity industry, Pillar, the lotteries and the waste services network?
The Hon. Marie Ficarra:
We are running out of money, John.
Dr JOHN KAYE:
That is yet to be proved, given the capacity of New South Wales. The outcome in Queensland shows that it was not a matter of concern. The State's borrowing capacity is being limited and constrained by the rating agencies. Is the Government engaged in a sensible public policy direction if it allows the rating agencies to constrain the State's borrowing policy? The chairman of the Rudd Government's Future Fund, Mr David Murray, a former chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank, does not agree. His view is that something is clearly wrong with the rating agencies. In an article in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald
Mr Murray said:
I'm not sure [the rating agencies] are well suited to being run as publicly listed companies because they actually run the standard by which the whole risk system works. There has to be an independent rating agency in the world.
He went on to say:
The best organisation to do [ratings] is the International Chamber of Commerce. And the ICC should be required by the sponsoring governments to access a panel of experts from universities around the world every three to five years to go over the intellectual setting of their standard.
Mr Murray is saying that the whole business of the credit rating of public agencies is out of control. To hand control over to private sector, profit-making companies to dictate public sector undertakings and hence determine economic policy clearly creates a set of perverse incentives that does not allow appropriate borrowing policies to occur in New South Wales and in other jurisdictions that are likewise trapped in the fallacy of the triple-A rating. It is time for the Rees Government to back off from its rhetoric. It has been totally caught up with the inviolability of the triple-A rating.
Every time economic policy is discussed the Government trots out the mantra. But it is a mantra that is costing us public ownership of important and essential public undertakings and is driving down the capacity of the Government to deliver quality services, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities. It is therefore time to remember that in the end it is governments that ought to be determining economic policy, not private sector rating agencies, and particularly not private sector rating agencies that have been thoroughly discredited by their participation in the sub-prime collateralised debt obligation fraud that was perpetrated on the finance sector and on small investors around the world.
The Greens will not oppose the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009. Even if we did, it would not make any difference because this House does not have the opportunity to reject money bills. But it is important that there be a robust debate about both the variations that come out of the bill and the underlying settings of economic policy. The next six months will be a period of great economic uncertainty: we are getting contradictory predictions of what will happen to the Australian economy and what will happen to the global economy. It is important that the debate on this bill is broad spread and well informed.
The Hon. GREG PEARCE
[11.50 a.m.]: I support the views of the Opposition on the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill 2009, which have been put forward so ably by my colleague the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox. I will make just a few comments in relation to the bill and in relation to the economic management record of the Government. At the outset I put into context some of the Opposition's concerns about the bill. The bill continues a long period, unfortunately, of mismanagement and spending by this Government in the way that it manages its economic affairs and the budget. It continues a pattern of lack of clarity and lack of completeness in reporting economic performance and fiscal matters and, in many cases, decisions by the Treasurer and officers of the Treasury and the Government, which can only be characterised as manipulation of the numbers, usually after the event.
On a number of occasions over the past couple of years I have raised these issues in the House—both on earlier bills and in relation to the budget itself. In May 2008 the Opposition published a paper called "Iemma/Costa's Labor—Risks to the Budget and Economy of NSW". Do members remember Mr Iemma and Mr Costa? In this paper we set out at considerable length our concerns about the way the Government was managing its fiscal affairs and, in particular, its use of the appropriation bills. We pointed out examples of budget information that is routinely changed to suit the political exigencies and spin of the day; budget formatting and reporting, which have changed continuously; the continual change by a succession of Labor Premiers of ministries, agencies and departments so that it is almost impossible to get two or three years of consistent reporting by many agencies on many programs and many expenditures.
It is a warehousing of various agencies with Ministers who do not have responsibility for the expenditure and for the portfolio area. A good example is in the area of industrial relations at the moment. The Minister for Industrial Relations is in this House, and he seems to have some responsibilities for the minor part of the portfolio, which is the appointment of the judges and magistrates in the Industrial Relations Commission, but the actual industrial relations policy is located in and run by the Department of Commerce, for which another Minister is responsible. And the WorkCover scheme is managed and located within yet another agency under the responsibility of the Minister for Finance.
Routinely billion-dollar transactions occur for which we do not have adequate information. Fortunately, none are covered by this bill. I do not need to go back through all of them. Millions of dollars are switched between programs or paid without prior appropriations or explanation as to the variances. Unfortunately, and I think Dr Kaye alluded to this, debate on the budget and its management has become largely perfunctory. The budget estimates process has been emasculated. Until last year the Government was able to get away with late-night hearings and a failure to provide answers—it still fails to provide answers—and the Public Accounts Committee, which is controlled by the Government, has virtually ceased to be a serious avenue of scrutiny.
One area that this bill does not touch upon is the public trading enterprises. I mention that simply because, again, we have seen the Government use the public trading enterprises to avoid scrutiny of expenditure, and in relation to debt the Government has essentially shifted general government debt over to the public trading enterprises. I do not want to spend much time responding to Dr Kaye—he normally speaks some sense in relation to these matters—but he said one thing that needs to be addressed. I agree with him, as we all do, that governments are going to have different circumstances—there will be variations—and, as part of the process, an appropriation bill will be required. But it is not simply a matter of the dollar amounts in the appropriation bill, which seem to be what Dr Kaye was focusing on; it is also about the question of transparency and about having adequate explanations and accounting as to what the Government has done with the funds in its control.
I will give a couple of examples arising from this bill. The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox raised the matter of an extra $1.837 million for the Better Regulation Office. Why was that not in the budget? I have read the Minister's speech from the other House but I have not had an opportunity yet to read the speech presented by the Parliamentary Secretary in this House. Where is the explanation as to why that expenditure is necessary? I refer to the cost of the 2008 by-elections. I suppose it is a matter of opinion as to whether those by-elections occurred in the normal course of running the Government, but I do not see it quite that way. The Labor Party forced out its own Premier, it forced out its own Treasurer and it forced out the Minister for Transport, who was the Deputy Premier. If that is regarded as normal behaviour then I think we need to review the way we look at government. Another example is the settlement of a legal dispute at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music has been a problem for this Government for many, many years. But, without any explanation whatsoever, $7.6 million is being appropriated for some sort of payoff to settle that dispute.
Over several years now the Auditor-General has expressed, in the language of an Auditor-General, his concerns about the way the Treasurer's Advance was used and about the way that interagency changes occurred, particularly where the Crown finance entity was used for years as a sort of slush bucket. The Auditor-General is concerned that in the budget at the beginning of the year the Crown Finance Entity is allocated a big pot of money and then, contrary to the purposes of the Crown Finance Entity, that money is not spent but is allocated to other departments and other agencies.
Our concern is very much about transparency and seeing adequate reporting and explanations as to how the Government is managing its finances. We are happy to contrast our position: We have launched our policy in relation to our economic goals and fiscal management, and it is called Planning for Prosperity. I am sure every member of the Government has taken the time to read that policy in detail. I hope a few have even made a submission. We have taken our Planning for Prosperity policy around the State and have received sensational input from communities throughout New South Wales who want to see responsible, transparent and effective fiscal management from a government. That is what we will offer as an alternative government in 2011.
Ms LEE RHIANNON
[11.59 a.m.]: My colleague John Kaye has dissected this bill thoroughly. I will take up two of the matters to which he paid attention. Page 9 of the bill states that more than $3 million has been allocated in additional funding for the World Youth Day Coordination Authority, specifically with regard to police and insurance costs.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.