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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 133..


Budget

MR STEFANIAK: My question without notice is directed to the Chief Minister. Incidentally, Chief Minister, the third member of our little firm, Mr Martin Sikes of Campbelltown District Court, was in town at the weekend and asked me to pass on his regards. Chief Minister, your Labor government is currently trying to extricate itself from commitments that have been made on numerous occasions to maintain a balanced budget over the economic cycle. However, the midyear budget review, tabled yesterday, forecasts an operating deficit in three years time of almost $17 million and a whopping aggregate deficit over this year and the next three years of $220 million. Chief Minister, why has your government abandoned its commitment to maintaining a balanced budget over the forecast period?

MR STANHOPE: We have not, Mr Stefaniak. Once again it is very similar to the position that Mr Mulcahy puts in relation to retreating instantly to GFS rather than the accounting standard that we utilise and have always utilised and that previous Liberal governments utilised. It is quite interesting really to say, "We operate under a particular accounting standard. There is another standard that makes things look far more dramatic in the nature of the numbers it produces. So let us just concentrate on that. Let us ask questions around a set of numbers that have never been the basis of budget reporting in the ACT under this government or any other government."

As the Treasurer just said, let us, through that device, basically paint a picture of a worst-case scenario that really is not based on fact or truth. Similarly, in relation to the point that the shadow Attorney-General made in his question, over the term of this government we have accumulated surpluses of well over $200 million. I do not know the exact figure, as I have not memorised it, but I think it is $230 million or $234 million. Since coming into office four years ago we have accumulated surpluses of about $230 million. The deficits that have been predicted in the Mid year review are precisely that-predictions.

This is not a passive government. It is not a government that looks at those numbers and thinks, "Deary me, there are deficits predicted into the outyears. We are not in charge of our destiny. We do not have the capacity, the officials, the wherewithal or the commitment to work hard at our budget, at our expenditure, at our governance, at our public service or at the way in which we deliver services. We are just going to sit as if frozen in place and simply allow this to roll along."That is nonsense. Over the years we, as a government, have produced accumulated surpluses of $234 million.

In a year in which the news is good we have now been told that the predicted published deficit of $91.5 million has been reduced to $37 million. That is what we achieved this year. Since predicting a deficit of $91 million this year we have presented a midyear review that presents or paints a much better picture; namely, a deficit of only $36 million or $37 million-a major achievement in the context of this year.

Mr Mulcahy: How was that achieved?

MR STANHOPE: It was achieved as expressed by the Mid year review, as a result of issues almost completely or exclusively beyond our control.


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