A LEGISLATIVE Assembly committee chaired by Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson has attacked the Government and recommended the ACT Budget not be passed, but Mr Hanson has been accused of abusing his position.
This year’s Budget should not be passed “because of its lack of delivery, high levels of deficit and deceitful plan to massively increase commercial and residential rates”, according to the final report of the 2013-14 Select Committee on Estimates, which also includes Shadow Treasurer Brendan Smyth alongside Labor MLAs Mick Gentleman and Dr Chris Bourke, as deputy chair.
Not surprisingly, Dr Bourke and Mr Gentleman disagreed with the official report of the committee chaired by Mr Hanson. In a separate dissenting report the Labor MLAs recommended the Budget should be passed and Mr Hanson should be “condemned for his partisan view” in chairing the committee.
Dr Bourke has accused Mr Hanson of badgering and bullying witnesses, ignoring conventions and abusing processes in favour of the Opposition, but Mr Hanson says the recommendation to scrap the Budget is now the Assembly’s “official” position.
“The Estimates Committee which comprised of two Canberra Liberal Members and two ACT Labor Members, produced a report that recommends the 2013-14 Budget not be passed by the Assembly,” Mr Hanson said in a statement this morning.
“The most misleading aspect of the Budget is the increase in rates. Throughout the 2012 Election both Andrew Barr and Katy Gallagher denied that rates would triple, however what this Budget tells us is that in 11 years time rates will do just that. Canberrans will be the ones who will feel the brunt of this Budget. There will be a hike in the cost of living, cuts to important services and job cuts to fund the Green\Labor Government’s pet projects such as light rail and the City to the Lake plan.”
In presenting the dissenting report of the committee’s two Labor MLAs, Dr Bourke praised the Budget for responsibly leading the way back to surplus while providing funding for transformative projects like the City to the Lake and University of Canberra Hospital and strongly criticised Mr Hanson’s chairing of the committee.
“In the hearings despite regular protests from myself, Mr Hanson allowed Opposition committee members and visitors to the Committee vastly more questions than the Government committee members,” Dr Bourke said.
“This is in contrast to his public statements last year when he demanded, in “The Canberra Times”, that the democratic basis of the Committee be protected and all members get a fair go. Secondly, Mr Hanson repeatedly badgered and bullied witnesses during the hearings – even after we challenged this behaviour. Wrongly, we’d hoped that his promotion to chair the Estimates Committee might have encouraged him to improve.
“In the drafting of the hearing’s report, Mr Hanson flouted conventions and failed to take the Clerk’s written advice on the Standing Orders.”
Despite the controversy, Mr Hanson said it would “negligent” to proceed with the Budget in the face of the report’s “official recommendation”.
“The Government Members of the committee had every opportunity to stop this report, they did not do so,” Mr Hanson said. “This is now the official recommendation of the Assembly.”
Neither the Opposition nor the Estimates Committee has the power to block the Budget’s passage through the ACT Legislative Assembly.