Published: 18 November 2015

November 15, 2015. 4.00 p.m.

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, each year the section 19 report gets a little better.  I am not referring to the amounts in the report, more the accompanying explanations.  When it comes to the impact on the budget, we do not get the full story.

In some instances there is no impact on the budget, as the Leader has indicated, as they are just reallocations.  In other instances, provision of additional funding will not have a negative impact on the budget because the additional Australian Government funding has been received or additional asset sales have occurred. 

The report attempts to allay any concerns by affirming that everything is hunky‑dory, and already has been included in the Preliminary Outcomes Report released in the middle of August 2015.  Not even the most experienced forensic accountant can trace these figures through the Preliminary Outcomes Report.  Put simply, which of the amounts in this report before us result from additional Australian Government receipts, which result from extra asset sales, and which require extra funds that will impact on the budget position?  Is it really too much to ask for this information to be provided? 

I am sure the issue will arise again when we discuss the financial management reform bill, but my biggest problem with the overall financial management reporting system is that it is currently piecemeal and has a disjointed structure.  The section 19 report is just one piece of that disjointed jigsaw puzzle we call the financial management system.  There needs to be a trail through the system that an intelligent layperson can follow.  We are still a long way from that position. 

What we appropriate each year needs to be reconciled with the cash we intend to spend, which comes at the end of the year and needs to be reconciled with what cash we have actually spent and what supplementary appropriations have been contributed with the balancing reconciliation being these amounts that are in the section 19 report - and not only the RAFs but the sought additional funds when that has occurred.  There is still this chain of events that we cannot really link up to follow the money, so to speak.  Only then, when we get all that information I have just mentioned, do we get an overall understanding of where all the money came from and where it all went.  Anything less than that and we have failed in our supervisory duty. 

I will make a few comments and ask for some further detail from the Leader regarding the information provided in this report.  The section 10 amounts are easy to get my head around.  These are the amounts appropriated to the departments and agencies which are shuffled around within those departments and agencies, whether it is recurrent funds under section 10(1) or works and services under section 10(3).  I can understand the problems with a new department like State Growth, especially when the Government gave it a severe haircut a few months after birth.  There has been a lot of shuffling around under section 10(1), so that is not unexpected.  The section 10(3) amounts relating to works and services amounts in the Department of State Growth are also understandable.  The section 11 amounts total $97 million.  

Education needed additional recurrent funds of almost $17 million, and fortunately funds that were available either through asset sales or Australian Government funding.  I am curious to know if the $14 million provided to non-government schools that was offset in part by $3.8 million transferred to government schools from non-government schools under section 10(1) means that non-government schools were favourably treated.  Or is this just a timing difference?  I cannot tell from the information before us, but I am interested in how that worked. 

The additional $15 million provided to first home buyers, twice the original budget estimate, presumably needs to be sourced from our own funds.  I wonder if the Leader can confirm if that was the case or not.  

I would also like a bit more information about the $14 million extra funding for Disability Services in DHHS.  I can see the money has been drawn down from the Australian Government, which provided funds earlier than expected, but has it all been spent or is it still sitting in the AGMA account?  Again, is it just a matter of timing, or has anything else changed? 

I also think the Government should have been a little bit more up-front about the $9 million deal relating to Jane Franklin Hall, not least because it needed the Governor's approval.  The first I knew about it was when it was mentioned in the Preliminary Outcomes Report, if I remember correctly; I do not recall seeing it prior to that.  I ask the Leader whether I do understand this correctly, and hopefully the Leader can respond in her reply.  I understand the government owned the asset.  The DHHS provided a grant to UTAS so that it could buy the asset, which it did by transferring the amount back into the Crown Lands Administration Fund.  The whole deal was cash-neutral, I assume.  I want to clarify if that is the case, is that actually what happened? 

A section 11 approval was needed for the DHHS amount granted to UTAS.  I am not sure how all this has happened.  If that is the case, why was the deal done, and why was it done this way?  I appreciate the Leader providing some more feedback there.  I ask the question, was it so UTAS could extract more money out of the Australian Government under the National Rental Affordability Scheme?  That may be the case. It may not.  I am interested in that.  We need more detail on this aspect of the report to follow the money.  Where did it go?  Where did it come from? 

I compliment the Government for providing a better laid-out report on this occasion.  They have improved over the years.  It is because we take the time to note this report and ask questions about it.  It puts pressure on Treasury.  Rather than a whole series of questions that go back to them, it is best to provide a bit more information up-front.  It sometimes takes a while for the Treasurer to recognise that - treasurers past and current. 

We still have a long way to go to provide a comprehensive and comprehensible financial management reporting system.  The timing is still of concern.  All the RAFs happened before 30 June, and all are incorporated into the Preliminary Outcomes report by 15 August.  Here we are again, 10 weeks later, finally getting a little more information.  It seems like we are always playing catch up with the information that we should be getting earlier.  I do not believe there is any reason for this delay.  The Public Account Act should not provide such latitude for the provision of important information to the Parliament.  

This may be one of the last section 19 reports we see.  I assume there will be another one next year, before the commencement of the new process under the financial management bill, if we ever get there.  That is still awaiting debate in this House.  The new reporting provisions that relate to these areas will be included in part 3 of that bill.  They are currently included in part 3 of the bill, as it sits on our Notice Paper.  

If the Leader could also inform me and the House as to the reason for the ongoing delay with proceeding with this bill.  It has been sitting on our Notice Paper, and was debated by the lower House some weeks ago.  It is not on our list of bills to proceed with this week, even though it has been sitting on the Notice Paper for some time.  Maybe it is because it is one I am ready to proceed with.  I do not know.  I would like the Leader to indicate what the hold-up is with that, particularly as it has been through the lower House. 

The Government has improved the detail contained within these reports, which is entirely necessary.  However, there is room for improvement, as I have noted.  Hopefully, our new financial management reporting system will provide that.  

I support the motion to approve these additional expenditure requests, in both recurrent and works and services areas, even though our approval is always sought and given well after these monies have been reallocated within departments, as I have said many years in a row, well after additional funds were spent and/or received from the Australian Government, or the sales of assets have proceeded.  It is always after the event, but that is the way the act provides, and here we are.  

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on it and seek further information about the report.  I look forward to the Leader's response.


Go Back