The weeks leading up the the State budget are generally the busiest of the year. Each Agency is required to prepare folders of budget estimates briefs covering any issue a Minister might be quizzed on during the few hours of Estimates hearings. Normal work – delivering services to Tasmanians – is suspended while we go through this farcical process.
Now you might say it’s a good thing that the government and the public service is held accountable for how it spends taxpayer money, and these estimates hearings are an important part of our Westminster system of government. If revealing information was their purpose, then we’d agreed with you but in fact estimates are run in a way that reveals the least information possible. They’ve become little more than a long Question Time with the government crowing about all its achievements and blaming its failings on a long-forgotten Labor-Green government.
The CPSU would like to see all the information prepared for Estimates made available to the public, even if a question on that specific issue isn’t asked. The public could then read the briefs, compare them to earlier years and have a full understanding of how their government works. If politicians wanted public hearings then these could still occur, but they would be limited to the questions not answered in the public briefs and there would be no dorothy dixer questions where a government backbencher reads a question handed to them by the Minister and then the Minister reads the answer that they had their Agency prepare for them.
Every public sector workplace sees change and reform – isn’t it time we saw some reform of our archaic parliamentary processes?