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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1351..


MR MOORE (continuing):

people with their qualifications. I have asked the hospital to look at the issues and try to come up with strategies for dealing with them and for finding radiation oncologists. I have discussed this matter with Dr Wooldridge, the federal health minister, and highlighted to him that there is an education problem as well. No doubt he will speak to his colleague in this area, Dr Kemp. It is a problem.

Mr Wood was very specific about the two-month waiting list. That does depend on the particular diagnosis of the person. My understanding, when I spoke to the people from oncology about six or seven weeks ago, was that they were still within the clinically required timeframes, but there was stress in that area of the hospital because of shortages.

Budget surplus

MR RUGENDYKE: My question is to the Chief Minister and Treasurer. A couple of years ago the former Chief Minister and Treasurer presented the full monty budget. In her tabling speech she said the following:

For the first time, the ACT Budget is moving into a genuine surplus in 2000-01. This is a tremendous achievement, particularly as it will occur four years ahead of the Government's original timetable.

However, a surplus needs to be sustainable. This means that the surplus needs to be of a size at least sufficient to cover the capital works program and to guard against any unforeseen economic shocks in the future.

Without a sustainable operating surplus, borrowings (or potential asset sales) would still be required to fund capital investment, even if the Budget is in balance.

The Government has estimated that by 2002-03 the ACT's operating surplus will be approximately $67 million which puts the Territory well on the way to a position of long-term financial sustainability.

Minister, last year, in your first budget, the forecast operating result for 2002-03 was downgraded to $57 million and estimated at $66 million for 2003-04. Let us fast forward to yesterday's figures in what I have called the Brewster's millions budget. The forecast operating result for 2002-03 is $20 million and the forecast for 2003-04 has been downgraded to $13 million. Can the Treasurer please explain the rationale for this apparent change in direction?

MR HUMPHRIES: Yes, Mr Speaker, I can. I thank Mr Rugendyke for that question. It is a good question. I make no bones about the fact that I have taken a different view from the view that was taken before on the way in which the territory's budgetary policy was laid out. Had we not made a change in direction in this year's budget, we would certainly have a surplus in the order of the $50 million that was projected in our forward estimates in last year's budget. There was a decline in successive years, as you have pointed out.

We could have left that budget to continue to rise, as it was slated to do under the forward estimates, or we could have taken the view that the accumulation of that surplus was unnecessary. I think the more sustainable view is that surpluses of that size are not necessary in the interests of the territory. If we expect a serious economic tragedy to


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