Budget scrutiny process an "absolute disgrace"
A BUDGET scrutiny process, born from the Fitzgerald corruption inquiry, has been reduced from seven days to two after a raucous parliamentary debate where the change was labelled "an absolute disgrace".
Instead of two weeks of budget estimates hearings where the ministers and their departmental officers are questioned, the Queensland Government successfully moved a motion to run all hearings concurrently over two days.
Leader of the House Ray Stevens argued the eight Opposition members, two Palmer United Party MPs, three Katter's Australia Party and two independents would have two days instead of one to question the figures.
But his motion was met with fierce debate as others raised how the government could be properly scrutinised when non-government members would be stretched trying to attend the eight estimates committee hearings.
South Brisbane MP Jackie Trad said it was a "stupid, pathetic rort of a motion", which was about "escaping scrutiny".
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk can attend all estimates hearings but the change means she will have to move through all hearings without being able to devote her time to each one as it sits.
Media coverage also will be limited as journalists will have to divide their time between hearings.
The estimates hearings, which can result in heavy penalties for incorrect answers, were designed to make government more publicly accountable for spending taxpayers' money.
Ms Palaszczuk said she believed it was an election year and the LNP was running scared.
She said the move trashed democracy and curtailed the democratic right of an opposition to fundamentally question the government.
"This is a shameful disgrace," she said.
"They don't like estimates hearings because it was a Tony Fitzgerald recommendation.
"That's why they want it curtailed.
"You cannot deny the right of the opposition and the cross-benchers to ask fundamental questions of this incompetent government during an estimates committee process.
"They're a bunch of chickens afraid to face the music."
Gladstone MP Liz Cunningham warned the government that the motion could come back to bite them if they found themselves in opposition in small numbers in the future.
"It's already been recognised through changes to committee system there are numerical issues with the opposition so small," she said.
"My concern is that there will be inadequate scrutiny for no other reason than running the estimates concurrently will make it impossible for members to properly cover all of the portfolios."
Mr Stevens had argued the change was a golden opportunity for more questions and showed the LNP was about "openness, accountability and transparency".
"That is double what they were getting before in terms of time and opportunity to hold ministers to account," he said.
Mr Stevens said it would free up the second week for further legislation and work to be done.