I’m in Canberra this week for Estimates Committee hearings, which are always held soon after the Budget. You can read a short briefing paper on the Senate Estimates process at this link (from which the graphic at the bottom of this post is taken). As the Budget has become used more as an opportunity for the government to reframe political debate and perceptions, becoming just one more signpost along the pathway of financial year rather than a detailed outline of the majority of proposed appropriations for government expenditure for the following year, the role of Estimates Committees has expanded into looking at all other aspects of government related expenditure, much as which isn’t detailed very specifically in the voluminous Budget papers.
One thing the Budget is being used more regularly for is a fundraising opportunity. According to the Financial Review, “the Coalition will collect more than $1 million in donations tonight … turning budget night into a vital fundraising event.” The newspaper detailed a range of dinners held throughout Parliament House on Budget night, including a $1500 a head function with the Workplace Relations Minister, a $1000 a head dinner with the Defence Minister in Parliament’s Mural Hall, a $1300 a head ‘Women of Power’ dinner with the Communications Minister, a $550 a head dinner with the National Party MPs and a $1000 a head dinner with the health Minister in the Great Hall (complete with a budget analysis by Piers Akerman?!). I presume people attend for the networking opportunities.
It’s only a just over a week since I last had to come to Canberra, but one noticeable difference is the weather, and how much it seems to be being talked about on the radio. Last week, there was some significant rainfall in the Canberra region, which like many other areas is suffering from a water shortage – the fountains have around Parliament House have been turned off for some time now. Now, the first signs of the normal cold weather are starting to appear, with much excitement from at least one radio announcer about the forecast of snow for the nearby Brindabella mountains. No doubt everyone will soon be complaining about the cold as per usual, but the fact that is has arrived so late this year seemed to make people start to look out for it, at least temporarily.