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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6449

Mrs MARKUS (4:53 PM) —I have several questions to pose to the minister today. One relates to the $15 million supplementary funding, the second to the special purpose payments. I understand that in 2007-08 the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ran $30 million over budget. The cash reserves were used to make up that shortfall. In 2008-09 the department again suffered a loss, though not as great, and the department asked for and received an appropriation of $15 million due to the implementation of a number of one-off business improvement projects, appropriation revenue declines flowing from DVA’s resourcing agreement and other government decisions. What were the other government decisions referred to in the portfolio budget statement that contributed to the need for the supplementary funding? Could the minister guarantee that the budget overruns in 2007-08 and 2008-09 were not impacted by the fulfilling of Labor’s election promises and, in addition, guarantee that the strategies implemented to resolve the shortfalls in 2007-08 and 2008-09 did not impact on delivery of services to the veteran community?

Related again to $15 million in 2008-09, the department asked for and received the $15 million on the basis that the department balance the budget in 2009-10. What measures have been put in place to ensure that there is no budget overrun and that the budget will be balanced in 2009-10? Could the minister guarantee that the moratorium on IT development, the recruitment freeze and the reduced staff levels will not impact again on the delivery of services to the community?

In relation to the special purpose payments, my understanding is that under the COAG agreement special purpose payments will now be made by Treasury to state and territory treasuries. I understand special purpose payments will be measured against defined benchmarks. Could the minister clarify what those benchmarks are? In relation to the special purpose payments, the budget papers say:

So long as States meet these benchmarks, they have full budget flexibility to allocate funds within that sector as they see fit to achieve the mutually-agreed objectives for that sector.

Could the minister guarantee that this major change to the funding arrangements will ensure that every dollar allocated for veterans programs and services will be spent on veterans programs and services and not appropriated for state based policies or go to general revenue?